Can Comodulation Masking Release Occur When Frequency Changes Could Promote Perceptual Segregation of the On-Frequency and Flanking Bands?
A common characteristic of natural sounds is that the level fluctuations in different frequency regions are coherent. The ability of the auditory system to use this comodulation is shown when a sinusoidal signal is masked by a masker centred at the signal frequency (on-frequency masker, OFM) and one or more off-frequency components, commonly referred to as flanking bands (FBs). In general, the threshold of the signal masked by comodulated masker components is lower than when masked by masker components with uncorrelated envelopes or in the presence of the OFM only. This effect is commonly referred to as comodulation masking release (CMR). The present study investigates if CMR is also observed for a sinusoidal signal embedded in the OFM when the centre frequencies of the FBs are swept over time with a sweep rate of one octave per second. Both a common change of different frequencies and comodulation could serve as cues to indicate which of the stimulus components originate from one source. If the common fate of frequency components is the stronger binding cue, the sweeping FBs and the OFM with a fixed centre frequency should no longer form one auditory object and the CMR should be abolished. However, psychoacoustical results with normal-hearing listeners show that a CMR is also observed with sweeping components. The results are consistent with the hypothesis of wideband inhibition as the underlying physiological mechanism, as the CMR should only depend on the spectral position of the flanking bands relative to the inhibitory areas (as seen in physiological recordings using stationary flanking bands). Preliminary physiological results in the cochlear nucleus of the Guinea pig show that a correlate of CMR can also be found at this level of the auditory pathway with sweeping flanking bands.
This work was supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, SFB trr 31).
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