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Original Research ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Hum. Neurosci. | doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2019.00249

Evidence for the rhythmic perceptual sampling of auditory scenes

  • 1Bielefeld University, Germany

Converging results suggest that perception is controlled by rhythmic processes in the brain. In the auditory domain, neuroimaging studies show that the perception of sounds is shaped by rhythmic activity prior to the stimulus, and electrophysiological recordings have linked delta and theta band activity to the functioning of individual neurons. These results have promoted theories of rhythmic modes of listening and generally suggest that the perceptually relevant encoding of acoustic information is structured by rhythmic processes along auditory pathways. A prediction from this perspective ̶ which so far has not been tested ̶ is that such rhythmic processes also shape how acoustic information is combined over time to judge extended soundscapes. The present study was designed to directly test this prediction. Human participants judged the overall change in perceived frequency content in temporally extended (1.2 to 1.8 s) soundscapes, while the perceptual use of the available sensory evidence was quantified using psychophysical reverse correlation. Model-based analysis of individual participant’s perceptual weights revealed a rich temporal structure, including linear trends, a U-shaped profile tied to the overall stimulus duration, and importantly, rhythmic components at the time scale of 1 to 2Hz. The collective evidence found here across four versions of the experiment supports the notion that rhythmic processes operating on the delta time scale structure how perception samples temporally extended acoustic scenes.

Keywords: Hearing, Auditory Perception, Rhythmic perception, reverse correlation, Delta band, theta band, Perceptual weight

Received: 14 May 2019; Accepted: 04 Jul 2019.

Edited by:

Edmund C. Lalor, University of Rochester, United States

Reviewed by:

Benedikt Zoefel, MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom
Johanna M. Rimmele, Max-Planck-Institut für empirische Ästhetik, Germany  

Copyright: © 2019 Kayser. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Christoph Kayser, Bielefeld University, Bielefeld, G12 8QB, Germany,