Context effects in ambiguous frequency shifts : a new paradigm to study adaptive audition

par Claire Chambers

Thèse de doctorat en Sciences cognitives

Sous la direction de Daniel Pressnitzer.

Soutenue le 20-11-2013

à Paris 5 , dans le cadre de École doctorale Cerveau, cognition, comportement (Paris) , en partenariat avec Laboratoire Psychologie de la Perception / LPP - UMR 8242 (laboratoire) .

Le président du jury était Jean-Luc Schwartz.

Le jury était composé de Daniel Pressnitzer, Jean-Luc Schwartz, Rhodri Cusack, Andrew J. Oxenham, Israel Nelken, John Rinzel.

Les rapporteurs étaient Rhodri Cusack, Andrew J. Oxenham.

  • Résumé

    In this thesis, we developed a new experimental paradigm for studying how recent sensory history (the context) affects a basic aspect of auditory perception, the comparison of successive frequency components. Stimuli were devised to include ambiguous transitions between frequency components, as it was hypothesized that such an ambiguity would make the task especially prone to reveal context effects. Six psychophysical experiments are reported. Using pairs of Shepard tones (Shepard, J. Acoust. Soc. Am., 1964), we first demonstrate a strong hysteresis effect when successive pairs are judged, whereby past trials affect current judgments. We then isolate the cause of this context effect, by contrasting perceptual reports for a same ambiguous test pair when preceded by different contexts. We show that frequency shifts are preferentially reported when they encompass a frequency regions that was stimulated during the context. This context effect is rapidly introduced, as a single tone as short as 20ms can produce a reliable bias. Yet it also has an enduring effect on perception, persisting over more than 30s. Using random chords pairs designed to include ambiguous frequency shifts, it then shown that the context effect is not specific to Shepard tones but rather reflects a generic process acting on the tonotopic representation of sounds. Finally, the context effect is modulated by both low-level (ear-of-entry) and high-level (selective attention) manipulations, suggesting an interplay between several processing stages for the underlying neural mechanism. Our findings show that one of the most ubiquitous and basic tasks of the auditory system, comparing successive frequency components, is not a fixed function of the physical stimulus. Rather, it is highly malleable and depends on the ongoing context.

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