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Pattern of BOLD signal in auditory cortex relates acoustic response to perceptual streaming

Kevin T Hill1, Christopher W Bishop1, Deepak Yadav1 and Lee M Miller12*

Author affiliations

1 Center for Mind and Brain, University of California, 267 Cousteau Pl, Davis, California, 95616, USA

2 Department of Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior, University of California, One Shields Ave, Davis, California, 95616, USA

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Citation and License

BMC Neuroscience 2011, 12:85  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-12-85

Published: 17 August 2011



Segregating auditory scenes into distinct objects or streams is one of our brain's greatest perceptual challenges. Streaming has classically been studied with bistable sound stimuli, perceived alternately as a single group or two separate groups. Throughout the last decade different methodologies have yielded inconsistent evidence about the role of auditory cortex in the maintenance of streams. In particular, studies using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) have been unable to show persistent activity within auditory cortex (AC) that distinguishes between perceptual states.


We use bistable stimuli, an explicit perceptual categorization task, and a focused region of interest (ROI) analysis to demonstrate an effect of perceptual state within AC. We find that AC has more activity when listeners perceive the split percept rather than the grouped percept. In addition, within this ROI the pattern of acoustic response across voxels is significantly correlated with the pattern of perceptual modulation. In a whole-brain exploratory test, we corroborate previous work showing an effect of perceptual state in the intraparietal sulcus.


Our results show that the maintenance of auditory streams is reflected in AC activity, directly relating sound responses to perception, and that perceptual state is further represented in multiple, higher level cortical regions.