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Research Project: Acoustic and semantic processing in the categorization of environmental sounds

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Acoustic and semantic processing in the categorization of environmental sounds

  Research Project Information
Runtime: Jan 03, 2008 until Dec 29, 2020
Scientific staff: Stephen McAdams; Robert Zatorre

Speech sounds are known to activate abstract cortical processing units, independent of the acoustical structure. It is currently unknown whether the cortical processing of all naturalistic sounds relies exclusively on acoustics, or whether it also contemplates abstract representations. We assessed the acoustical and abstract category representation of non speech environmental sounds in the fine-grained spatial distribution of the BOLD effect. The categories of living and human sounds were represented abstractly in two post-primary areas: the planum temporale and posterior superior temporal gyrus. Abstract cortical representations are thus active for all sounds of a biological origin. Notably, however, nowhere in the brain did category-membership features explain the spatial BOLD patterns more accurately than the acoustical features. An extensive characterization of the sensory information should thud become an integral part of theories for the cortical processing of naturalistic events.