Is the auditory system cognitively penetrable?

Frontiers in Psychology 6 (2015)
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According to the hierarchical model of sensory information processing, sensory inputs are transmitted to cortical areas, which are crucial for complex auditory and speech processing, only after being processed in subcortical areas (Hickok and Poeppel, 2007; Rauschecker and Scott, 2009). However, studies using electroencephalography (EEG) indicate that distinguishing simultaneous auditory inputs involves a widely distributed neural network, including the medial temporal lobe, which is essential for declarative memory, and posterior association cortices (Alain et al., 2001; Squire et al., 2004). More recent studies have even demonstrated plasticity of auditory signals as low as the brainstem (Suga, 2008). Collectively, studies suggest that the functional architecture of perceptual processing involves primarily top-down modulation (Suga et al., 2002; Gilbert and Li, 2013; Chandrasekaran et al., 2014). Top-down influences exerted throughout the auditory systems (Lotto and Holt, 2011) include: memory (Goldinger, 1998)1, attention (Choi et al., 2014), which has been found to modulate auditory encoding in the cochlea, a subcortical area (Maison et al., 2001), (prior) knowledge of syntax or words (Ganong, 1980; Warren, 1984)2, and experience-based expectations pertaining to the speaker's accent (Deutsch, 1996; Deutsch et al., 2004; Irino and Patterson, 2006), gender (Johnson et al., 1999), and vocal folds or tract (Irino and Patterson, 2002; Patterson and Johnsrude, 2008)



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Author Profiles

Berit Brogaard
University of Miami
Dimitria Gatzia
University of Akron