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Auditory Temporal Processing and its Disorders$
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Jos J. Eggermont

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780198719090

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198719090.001.0001

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Stream segregation and cocktail parties

Stream segregation and cocktail parties

Chapter:
(p.181) Chapter 10 Stream segregation and cocktail parties
Source:
Auditory Temporal Processing and its Disorders
Author(s):

Jos Eggerrmont

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198719090.003.0010

It is amazing that in a noisy, multiple-people-talking environment, listeners with normal hearing can still recognize and understand the attended speech and simultaneously ignore background noise and irrelevant speech stimuli. How do we recognize what one person is saying when others are speaking at the same time? There are two challenges for a listener in a “cocktail party” situation. The first is the problem of sound segregation. The auditory system must derive the properties of individual sounds from the mixture entering the ears. The second challenge is that of directing attention to the sound source of interest while ignoring the others. In addition temporal structure has a key role in stream segregation. Timing synchrony of frequency partials allow fusion into a more complex sound, and if the frequency partials are harmonic the fusion is more likely. In contrast, timing asynchrony is a major element to distinguish one stream from two streams. Animal experiments have highlighted the role of temporal aspects by comparing behavioral data and recordings from the forebrain in the same species. Feature dependent forward suppression in auditory cortex may underlie streaming. Modeling studies suggest that stream formation depends primarily on temporal coherence between responses that encode various features of a sound source. Furthermore, it is postulated that only when attention is directed towards a particular feature (e.g. pitch) do all other temporally coherent features of that source (e.g. timbre and location) become bound together as a stream that is segregated from the incoherent features of other sources.

Keywords:   scene analysis, sound stream segregation, cocktail party problem, synchrony, animal behavior, event-related potentials, imaging

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