Academic journal article Attention, Perception and Psychophysics

Auditory Frequency Perception Adapts Rapidly to the Immediate Past

Academic journal article Attention, Perception and Psychophysics

Auditory Frequency Perception Adapts Rapidly to the Immediate Past

Article excerpt

Published online: 19 December 2014

© The Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2014

Abstract Frequency modulation is critical to human speech. Evidence from psychophysics, neurophysiology, and neuroimaging suggests that there are neuronal populations tuned to this property of speech. Consistent with this, extended exposure to frequency change produces direction specific aftereffects in frequency change detection. We show that this aftereffect occurs extremely rapidly, requiring only a single trial of just 100-ms duration. We demonstrate this using a long, randomized series of frequency sweeps (both upward and downward, by varying amounts) and analyzing intertrial adaptation effects. We show the point of constant frequency is shifted systematically towards the previous trial's sweep direction (i.e., a frequency sweep aftereffect). Furthermore, the perception of glide direction is also independently influenced by the glide presented two trials previously. The aftereffect is frequency tuned, as exposure to a frequency sweep from a set centered on 1,000 Hz does not influence a subsequent trial drawn from a set centered on 400 Hz. More generally, the rapidity of adaptation suggests the auditory system is constantly adapting and "tuning" itself to the most recent environmental conditions.

Keywords Adaptation and Aftereffects . Audition . Hearing


Adaptation has been used for decades in psychophysical research as a method to infer the properties of neurons underlying perception of a given stimulus. Long before neuroimaging and electrophysiology were commonplace, the use of extended exposure to stimuli and their consequent perceptual aftereffects served as the "psychologist's micro-electrode" (Frisby, 1980). In vision research, this approach was used to investigate neurons tuned to colour, motion, spatial frequency and orientation, to name but a few stimulus dimensions (for reviews see Clifford et al., 2007; Webster, 2011). Similarly, adaptation has been extensively employed in auditory (Carlile, Hyams, & Delaney, 2001;Kay&Matthews,1972; Phillips & Hall, 2005), somatosensory (Hahn, 1966;Hollins,Sliman,& Washburn, 2001; Miyazaki, Yamamoto, Uchida, & Kitazawa, 2006), and olfactory research (Dalton, 2000; Pryor, Steinmetz, & Stone, 1970; Steinmetz, Pryor, & Stone, 1970). Despite its widespread use, there are some limitations to this paradigm. Traditionally, adaptation studies separate exposure and testing into two separate phases, with participants monitoring the adapting stimulus for an extended period after which a test trial is presented. A number of test trials are normally needed to obtain an accurate measure of the aftereffect and so the adaptation period (or sometimes a shorter "top-up" adaptation) must be repeated. This approach is not only very timeconsuming, but also highly inefficient as no useful information is gathered during lengthy periods of adaptation.

Two recent multisensory studies have adopted an alternative approach based on intertrial analyses and shown that adaptation can be induced and tested extremely rapidly (Van der Burg, Alais, & Cass, 2013; Wozny & Shams, 2011). In this approach, stimuli are presented in a series of rapid trials with each briefly presenting the stimulus at a level randomly drawn from a range sufficient to measure a threshold. After each trial, participants make a binary forced-choice response to a simple question about the stimulus (e.g., Was the line vertical?; Was the sound intensity constant?). When the trial series is finished, the response to each level of the stimulus on a given trial is binned based on the stimulus level presented in the previous trial. In effect, each trial is both the adapted stimulus from the previous trial and serves as the adapting stimulus for the subsequent trial. The key feature of this approach is that there is no division between adaptation and test phases. This improves efficiency as no time is lost in timeconsuming adaptation periods and every trial provides data. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.