Interactions between auditory ‘what’ and ‘where’ pathways revealed by enhanced near-threshold discrimination of frequency and position
AUTHORS: Tardif E, Spierer L, Clarke S, Murray MM
Neuropsychologia, 46(4): 958-66, March 2008
Partially segregated neuronal pathways (“what” and “where” pathways, respectively) are thought to mediate sound recognition and localization. Less studied are interactions between these pathways. In two experiments, we investigated whether near-threshold pitch discrimination sensitivity (d’) is altered by supra-threshold task-irrelevant position differences and likewise whether near-threshold position discrimination sensitivity is altered by supra-threshold task-irrelevant pitch differences. Each experiment followed a 2 x 2 within-subjects design regarding changes/no change in the task-relevant and task-irrelevant stimulus dimensions. In Experiment 1, subjects discriminated between 750 Hz and 752 Hz pure tones, and d’ for this near-threshold pitch change significantly increased by a factor of 1.09 when accompanied by a task-irrelevant position change of 65 micros interaural time difference (ITD). No response bias was induced by the task-irrelevant position change. In Experiment 2, subjects discriminated between 385 micros and 431 micros ITDs, and d’ for this near-threshold position change significantly increased by a factor of 0.73 when accompanied by task-irrelevant pitch changes (6 Hz). In contrast to Experiment 1, task-irrelevant pitch changes induced a response criterion bias toward responding that the two stimuli differed. The collective results are indicative of facilitative interactions between “what” and “where” pathways. By demonstrating how these pathways may cooperate under impoverished listening conditions, our results bear implications for possible neuro-rehabilitation strategies. We discuss our results in terms of the dual-pathway model of auditory processing.