Journal article

Learning-induced plasticity in human audition: objects, time, and space

The human auditory system is comprised of specialized but interacting anatomic and functional pathways encoding object, spatial, and temporal information. We review how learning-induced plasticity manifests along these pathways and to what extent there are common mechanisms subserving such plasticity. A first series of experiments establishes a temporal hierarchy along which sounds of objects are discriminated along basic to fine-grained categorical boundaries and learned representations. A widespread network of temporal and (pre)frontal brain regions contributes to object discrimination via recursive processing. Learning-induced plasticity typically manifested as repetition suppression within a common set of brain regions. A second series considered how the temporal sequence of sound sources is represented. We show that lateralized responsiveness during the initial encoding phase of pairs of auditory spatial stimuli is critical for their accurate ordered perception. Finally, we consider how spatial representations are formed and modified through training-induced learning. A population-based model of spatial processing is supported wherein temporal and parietal structures interact in the encoding of relative and absolute spatial information over the initial  300 ms post-stimulus onset. Collectively, these data provide insights into the functional organization of human audition and open directions for new developments in targeted diagnostic and neurorehabilitation strategies.


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