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How learning to abstract shapes neural sound representations.

Ley A, Vroomen J, Formisano E - Front Neurosci (2014)

Bottom Line: We examine the role of different neural structures along the auditory processing pathway in the formation of abstract sound representations with respect to hierarchical as well as dynamic and distributed processing models.Finally, we discuss the opportunities of modern analyses techniques such as multivariate pattern analysis (MVPA) in studying categorical sound representations.With their increased sensitivity to distributed activation changes-even in absence of changes in overall signal level-these analyses techniques provide a promising tool to reveal the neural underpinnings of perceptually invariant sound representations.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Medical Psychology and Neuropsychology, Tilburg School of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Tilburg University Tilburg, Netherlands ; Department of Cognitive Neuroscience, Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience, Maastricht University Maastricht, Netherlands.

ABSTRACT
The transformation of acoustic signals into abstract perceptual representations is the essence of the efficient and goal-directed neural processing of sounds in complex natural environments. While the human and animal auditory system is perfectly equipped to process the spectrotemporal sound features, adequate sound identification and categorization require neural sound representations that are invariant to irrelevant stimulus parameters. Crucially, what is relevant and irrelevant is not necessarily intrinsic to the physical stimulus structure but needs to be learned over time, often through integration of information from other senses. This review discusses the main principles underlying categorical sound perception with a special focus on the role of learning and neural plasticity. We examine the role of different neural structures along the auditory processing pathway in the formation of abstract sound representations with respect to hierarchical as well as dynamic and distributed processing models. Whereas most fMRI studies on categorical sound processing employed speech sounds, the emphasis of the current review lies on the contribution of empirical studies using natural or artificial sounds that enable separating acoustic and perceptual processing levels and avoid interference with existing category representations. Finally, we discuss the opportunities of modern analyses techniques such as multivariate pattern analysis (MVPA) in studying categorical sound representations. With their increased sensitivity to distributed activation changes-even in absence of changes in overall signal level-these analyses techniques provide a promising tool to reveal the neural underpinnings of perceptually invariant sound representations.

No MeSH data available.


Related in: MedlinePlus

Representation of the study by Ley et al. (2012). (A) Multidimensional stimulus space spanning the two categories A and B. (B) Group discrimination maps based on the post-learning fMRI data for the trained stimulus division (i.e., “low pitch” vs. “high pitch”), displayed on an average reconstructed cortical surface after cortex-based realignment. (C) Average classification accuracies based on fMRI data prior to category training and after successful category learning for the two types of stimulus space divisions (trained vs. untrained) and the respective trial labeling. (D) Changes in pattern similarity and behavioral identification curves. After category learning, neural response patterns for sounds with higher pitch (pitch levels 4, 5, 6) correlated with the prototypical response pattern for class B more strongly than class A, independent of other acoustic features. The profile of these correlations on the pitch continuum closely reflected the sigmoid shape of the behavioral category identification function.
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Figure 3: Representation of the study by Ley et al. (2012). (A) Multidimensional stimulus space spanning the two categories A and B. (B) Group discrimination maps based on the post-learning fMRI data for the trained stimulus division (i.e., “low pitch” vs. “high pitch”), displayed on an average reconstructed cortical surface after cortex-based realignment. (C) Average classification accuracies based on fMRI data prior to category training and after successful category learning for the two types of stimulus space divisions (trained vs. untrained) and the respective trial labeling. (D) Changes in pattern similarity and behavioral identification curves. After category learning, neural response patterns for sounds with higher pitch (pitch levels 4, 5, 6) correlated with the prototypical response pattern for class B more strongly than class A, independent of other acoustic features. The profile of these correlations on the pitch continuum closely reflected the sigmoid shape of the behavioral category identification function.

Mentions: Modern analyses techniques with increased sensitivity to spatially distributed activation changes in absence of changes in overall signal level provide a promising tool to decode perceptually invariant sound representations in humans (Formisano et al., 2008; Kilian-Hütten et al., 2011a) and detect the neural effects of learning (Figure 2). Multivariate pattern analysis (MVPA) employs established classification techniques from machine learning to discriminate between different cognitive states that are represented in the combined activity of multiple locally distributed voxels, even when their average activity does not differ between conditions (see Haynes and Rees, 2006; Norman et al., 2006; Haxby, 2012 for tutorial reviews). Recently, Ley et al. (2012) demonstrated the potential of this method to trace rapid transformations of neural sound representations, which are entirely based on changes in the way the sounds are perceived induced by a few days of category learning (Figure 3). In their study, participants were trained to categorize complex artificial ripple sounds, differing along several acoustic dimensions into two distinct groups. BOLD activity was measured before and after training during passive exposure to an acoustic continuum spanned between the trained categories. This design ensured that the acoustic stimulus dimensions were uninformative of the trained sound categorization such that any change in the activation pattern could be attributed to a warping of the perceptual space rather than physical distance. After successful learning, locally distributed response patterns in Heschl's gyrus (HG) and its adjacency became selective for the trained category discrimination (pitch) while the same sounds elicited indistinguishable responses before. In line with recent findings in rat primary AC (Engineer et al., 2013), the similarity of the cortical activation patterns reflected the sigmoid categorical structure and correlated with perceptual rather than physical sound similarity. Thus, complementary research in animals and humans indicate that perceptual sound categories are represented in the activation patterns of distributed neuronal populations in early auditory regions, further supporting the role of the early AC in abstract and experience-driven sound processing rather than acoustic feature mapping (Nelken, 2004). It is noteworthy that these abstract categorical representations were detectable despite passive listening conditions. This is an important detail, as it demonstrates that categorical representations are (at least partially) independent of higher-order decision or motor-related processes. Furthermore, it suggests that some preparatory (i.e., multipurpose) abstraction of the physical input happens at the level of the early auditory cortex.


How learning to abstract shapes neural sound representations.

Ley A, Vroomen J, Formisano E - Front Neurosci (2014)

Representation of the study by Ley et al. (2012). (A) Multidimensional stimulus space spanning the two categories A and B. (B) Group discrimination maps based on the post-learning fMRI data for the trained stimulus division (i.e., “low pitch” vs. “high pitch”), displayed on an average reconstructed cortical surface after cortex-based realignment. (C) Average classification accuracies based on fMRI data prior to category training and after successful category learning for the two types of stimulus space divisions (trained vs. untrained) and the respective trial labeling. (D) Changes in pattern similarity and behavioral identification curves. After category learning, neural response patterns for sounds with higher pitch (pitch levels 4, 5, 6) correlated with the prototypical response pattern for class B more strongly than class A, independent of other acoustic features. The profile of these correlations on the pitch continuum closely reflected the sigmoid shape of the behavioral category identification function.
© Copyright Policy - open-access
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC4043152&req=5

Figure 3: Representation of the study by Ley et al. (2012). (A) Multidimensional stimulus space spanning the two categories A and B. (B) Group discrimination maps based on the post-learning fMRI data for the trained stimulus division (i.e., “low pitch” vs. “high pitch”), displayed on an average reconstructed cortical surface after cortex-based realignment. (C) Average classification accuracies based on fMRI data prior to category training and after successful category learning for the two types of stimulus space divisions (trained vs. untrained) and the respective trial labeling. (D) Changes in pattern similarity and behavioral identification curves. After category learning, neural response patterns for sounds with higher pitch (pitch levels 4, 5, 6) correlated with the prototypical response pattern for class B more strongly than class A, independent of other acoustic features. The profile of these correlations on the pitch continuum closely reflected the sigmoid shape of the behavioral category identification function.
Mentions: Modern analyses techniques with increased sensitivity to spatially distributed activation changes in absence of changes in overall signal level provide a promising tool to decode perceptually invariant sound representations in humans (Formisano et al., 2008; Kilian-Hütten et al., 2011a) and detect the neural effects of learning (Figure 2). Multivariate pattern analysis (MVPA) employs established classification techniques from machine learning to discriminate between different cognitive states that are represented in the combined activity of multiple locally distributed voxels, even when their average activity does not differ between conditions (see Haynes and Rees, 2006; Norman et al., 2006; Haxby, 2012 for tutorial reviews). Recently, Ley et al. (2012) demonstrated the potential of this method to trace rapid transformations of neural sound representations, which are entirely based on changes in the way the sounds are perceived induced by a few days of category learning (Figure 3). In their study, participants were trained to categorize complex artificial ripple sounds, differing along several acoustic dimensions into two distinct groups. BOLD activity was measured before and after training during passive exposure to an acoustic continuum spanned between the trained categories. This design ensured that the acoustic stimulus dimensions were uninformative of the trained sound categorization such that any change in the activation pattern could be attributed to a warping of the perceptual space rather than physical distance. After successful learning, locally distributed response patterns in Heschl's gyrus (HG) and its adjacency became selective for the trained category discrimination (pitch) while the same sounds elicited indistinguishable responses before. In line with recent findings in rat primary AC (Engineer et al., 2013), the similarity of the cortical activation patterns reflected the sigmoid categorical structure and correlated with perceptual rather than physical sound similarity. Thus, complementary research in animals and humans indicate that perceptual sound categories are represented in the activation patterns of distributed neuronal populations in early auditory regions, further supporting the role of the early AC in abstract and experience-driven sound processing rather than acoustic feature mapping (Nelken, 2004). It is noteworthy that these abstract categorical representations were detectable despite passive listening conditions. This is an important detail, as it demonstrates that categorical representations are (at least partially) independent of higher-order decision or motor-related processes. Furthermore, it suggests that some preparatory (i.e., multipurpose) abstraction of the physical input happens at the level of the early auditory cortex.

Bottom Line: We examine the role of different neural structures along the auditory processing pathway in the formation of abstract sound representations with respect to hierarchical as well as dynamic and distributed processing models.Finally, we discuss the opportunities of modern analyses techniques such as multivariate pattern analysis (MVPA) in studying categorical sound representations.With their increased sensitivity to distributed activation changes-even in absence of changes in overall signal level-these analyses techniques provide a promising tool to reveal the neural underpinnings of perceptually invariant sound representations.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Medical Psychology and Neuropsychology, Tilburg School of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Tilburg University Tilburg, Netherlands ; Department of Cognitive Neuroscience, Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience, Maastricht University Maastricht, Netherlands.

ABSTRACT
The transformation of acoustic signals into abstract perceptual representations is the essence of the efficient and goal-directed neural processing of sounds in complex natural environments. While the human and animal auditory system is perfectly equipped to process the spectrotemporal sound features, adequate sound identification and categorization require neural sound representations that are invariant to irrelevant stimulus parameters. Crucially, what is relevant and irrelevant is not necessarily intrinsic to the physical stimulus structure but needs to be learned over time, often through integration of information from other senses. This review discusses the main principles underlying categorical sound perception with a special focus on the role of learning and neural plasticity. We examine the role of different neural structures along the auditory processing pathway in the formation of abstract sound representations with respect to hierarchical as well as dynamic and distributed processing models. Whereas most fMRI studies on categorical sound processing employed speech sounds, the emphasis of the current review lies on the contribution of empirical studies using natural or artificial sounds that enable separating acoustic and perceptual processing levels and avoid interference with existing category representations. Finally, we discuss the opportunities of modern analyses techniques such as multivariate pattern analysis (MVPA) in studying categorical sound representations. With their increased sensitivity to distributed activation changes-even in absence of changes in overall signal level-these analyses techniques provide a promising tool to reveal the neural underpinnings of perceptually invariant sound representations.

No MeSH data available.


Related in: MedlinePlus