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Sound localization

  • Author(s): Middlebrooks, JC
  • et al.
Abstract

© 2015 Elsevier B.V. The auditory system derives locations of sound sources from spatial cues provided by the interaction of sound with the head and external ears. Those cues are analyzed in specific brainstem pathways and then integrated as cortical representation of locations. The principal cues for horizontal localization are interaural time differences (ITDs) and interaural differences in sound level (ILDs). Vertical and front/back localization rely on spectral-shape cues derived from direction-dependent filtering properties of the external ears. The likely first sites of analysis of these cues are the medial superior olive (MSO) for ITDs, lateral superior olive (LSO) for ILDs, and dorsal cochlear nucleus (DCN) for spectral-shape cues. Localization in distance is much less accurate than that in horizontal and vertical dimensions, and interpretation of the basic cues is influenced by additional factors, including acoustics of the surroundings and familiarity of source spectra and levels. Listeners are quite sensitive to sound motion, but it remains unclear whether that reflects specific motion detection mechanisms or simply detection of changes in static location. Intact auditory cortex is essential for normal sound localization. Cortical representation of sound locations is highly distributed, with no evidence for point-to-point topography. Spatial representation is strictly contralateral in laboratory animals that have been studied, whereas humans show a prominent right-hemisphere dominance.

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