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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Neural Correlates of Auditory Perceptual Awareness and Release from Informational Masking Recorded Directly from Human Cortex: A Case Study.

  • Author(s): Dykstra, Andrew R
  • Halgren, Eric
  • Gutschalk, Alexander
  • Eskandar, Emad N
  • Cash, Sydney S
  • et al.

In complex acoustic environments, even salient supra-threshold sounds sometimes go unperceived, a phenomenon known as informational masking. The neural basis of informational masking (and its release) has not been well-characterized, particularly outside auditory cortex. We combined electrocorticography in a neurosurgical patient undergoing invasive epilepsy monitoring with trial-by-trial perceptual reports of isochronous target-tone streams embedded in random multi-tone maskers. Awareness of such masker-embedded target streams was associated with a focal negativity between 100 and 200 ms and high-gamma activity (HGA) between 50 and 250 ms (both in auditory cortex on the posterolateral superior temporal gyrus) as well as a broad P3b-like potential (between ~300 and 600 ms) with generators in ventrolateral frontal and lateral temporal cortex. Unperceived target tones elicited drastically reduced versions of such responses, if at all. While it remains unclear whether these responses reflect conscious perception, itself, as opposed to pre- or post-perceptual processing, the results suggest that conscious perception of target sounds in complex listening environments may engage diverse neural mechanisms in distributed brain areas.

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