Emphasis of spatial cues in the temporal fine structure during the rising segments of amplitude-modulated sounds

Mathias Dietz*, Torsten Marquardt, Nelli H. Salminen, David McAlpine

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Citations (Scopus)


The ability to locate the direction of a target sound in a background of competing sources is critical to the survival of many species and important for human communication. Nevertheless, brain mechanisms that provide for such accurate localization abilities remain poorly understood. In particular, it remains unclear how the auditory brain is able to extract reliable spatial information directly from the source when competing sounds and reflections dominate all but the earliest moments of the sound wave reaching each ear. We developed a stimulus mimicking the mutual relationship of sound amplitude and binaural cues, characteristic to reverberant speech. This stimulus, named amplitude modulated binaural beat, allows for a parametric and isolated change of modulation frequency and phase relations. Employing magnetoencephalography and psychoacoustics it is demonstrated that the auditory brain uses binaural information in the stimulus fine structure only during the rising portion of each modulation cycle, rendering spatial information recoverable in an otherwise unlocalizable sound. The data suggest that amplitude modulation provides ameans of "glimpsing" low-frequency spatial cues in amanner that benefits listening in noisy or reverberant environments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15151-15156
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number37
Publication statusPublished - 10 Sep 2013
Externally publishedYes


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