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Distinct mechanisms for processing spatial sequences and pitch sequences in the human auditory brain

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Jason Warren, Professor Tim GriffithsORCiD


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Perception of the acoustic world requires the simultaneous processing of the acoustic patterns associated with sound objects and their location in space. In this functional magnetic resonance experiment, we investigated the human brain areas engaged in the analysis of pitch sequences and sequences of acoustic spatial locations in a paradigm in which both could be varied independently. Subjects were presented with sequences of sounds in which the individual sounds were regular interval noises with variable pitch. Positions of individual sounds were varied using a virtual acoustic space paradigm during scanning. Sound sequences with changing pitch specifically activated lateral Heschl's gyrus (HG), anterior planum temporale (PT), planum polare, and superior temporal gyrus anterior to HG. Sound sequences with changing spatial locations specifically activated posteromedial PT. These results demonstrate directly that distinct mechanisms for the analysis of pitch sequences and acoustic spatial sequences exist in the human brain. This functional differentiation is evident as early as PT: within PT, pitch pattern is processed anterolaterally and spatial location is processed posteromedially. These areas may represent human homologs of macaque lateral and medial belt, respectively.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Warren JD, Griffiths TD

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Neuroscience

Year: 2003

Volume: 23

Issue: 13

Pages: 5799-5804

ISSN (print): 0270-6474

ISSN (electronic): 1529-2401

Publisher: Society for Neuroscience

PubMed id: 12843284