Sound localisation is one of the most representative function of the auditory system and, as such, it has been extensively investigated across species. Spatial hearing can be dramatically altered across the life span, yet research in humans have highlighted the remarkable capacity of the brain to adapt to changes of listening conditions, such as temporary ear plugging or long lasting hearing impairments. Although several investigations have examined accommodation to altered auditory cues (Chapter 1), a common theoretical framework seems to lack and a number of questions remain open. This limits the possibility to translate our current knowledge into concrete clinical applications for individuals who experience spatial hearing difficulties after hearing loss. The current dissertation reflects the attempt to answer specific questions regarding the process of sound localisation. The first study (Chapter 2) aimed to investigate the relation between different reference frames in spatial hearing, namely egocentric and allocentric sound representation. We studies this topic in the context of a learning paradigm, assessing to what extent localisation of single sounds in simulated monaural hearing (unilateral ear plugging) can improve following an audio-visual spatial hearing training focused on egocentric sound processing vs allocentric sound processing. An untrained group was also included in the study. We found that localisation performance in the horizontal plane improved specifically in the side ipsilateral to the ear-plug for all groups. Yet, the trained groups showed a qualitatively different change of performance after four days of multisensory ego/allocentric training compared to the untrained group, providing initial evidence of the possible role of allocentric coding in acoustic space re-learning. These results further highlight the importance of including a test-retest group in paradigms of sound localisation training. The second study (Chapter 3) focused on a specific aspect of the phenomenological experience of spatial hearing, namely the subjective confidence about the perceived sound position. We examined the relation between objective localisation accuracy and subjective certainty while participants localised sounds in two different listening conditions – binaural or simulated monaural hearing. Results showed that overall subjective certainty on sound position decreased in the altered listening condition (unilateral ear-plugging). In simulated monaural hearing, localisation accuracy and spatial confidence dissociated. For instance, there were trials in which participants were accurate, but felt uncertain, and trials in which they were less accurate but expressed higher ratings of spatial confidence on sound position. Furthermore, subjective confidence increased as a function of time within the testing block, and it was related to the spatial distribution of the perceived sound-source position. The third study (Chapter 4) exploited magnetoencephalography (MEG) to study the dynamics of the cortical network implied in active sound localisation. We implemented a novel apparatus to study sound localisation in MEG with real sounds in external space, and collected behavioural and subjective responses (i.e., accuracy and confidence, as in Study 2) during this altered listening condition. Results showed that participants were able to perceive the spatial difference between the positions of stimulation, thus proving the reliability of our novel setting for the study of spatial hearing in MEG. MEG data highlight a distributed bilateral cortical network involved in active sound localisation, which emerged shortly after stimulus presentation (100—125 ms). The network comprise the classical dorsal auditory pathway plus other cortical regions usually underestimated in previous literature – most notably, regions in the central sulcus/precentral gyrus possibly involved in head movements. Connectivity analysis revealed different patterns of neural coupling, as a function of frequency band. In particular, coherence in high gamma revealed significant connections involving the parietal cortex and the posterior superior temporal cortex. In the final chapter (Chapter 5), I summarise the main findings of the three studies, discuss their implications and outline potential future directions.
Hearing sounds in space: A neuro-cognitive investigation on the ability to associate auditory cues with external space / Rabini, Giuseppe. - (2019 Dec 09), pp. 1-243.
|Titolo:||Hearing sounds in space: A neuro-cognitive investigation on the ability to associate auditory cues with external space|
|Anno di pubblicazione:||2019-12-09|
|Corso di dottorato:||Cognitive and Brain Sciences|
|Tesi in cotutela:||no|
|Digital Object Identifier (DOI):||10.15168/11572_246000|
|Appare nelle tipologie:||08.1 Tesi di dottorato (Doctoral Thesis)|