Detecting auditory change in the environment.

The ability to detect a change in sound is an essential ability in all animals, including humans. In animals it I crucial for an antelope to detect the sound of an approaching lion whilst the antelope is grazing. In humans living in modern busy cities most of us would struggle if we were unable to hear a change in sound when crossing the road, not hearing the auditory change could mean a close call with vehicle.

A recent study from University College London (UCL) has sought to determine the neurological correlates of auditory change detection in crowded acoustic environments. The study used a sequence of tone pips that vary in frequency and temporal modulation, these sounds were designed to simulate natural environmental background sounds.

The study found that participants are more likely to detect with accuracy a change in sound when it is in an ongoing scene, rather than at a later time. Additionally, environments with more sounds were more likely to elicit a higher detection rate of a changes in sound.

This study reveals that when we are walking down a busy and loud street in a modern city we are more likely to detect a change in sound compared to when in a quieter city street. These findings seem counter-intuitive but shed some light on how the brain has evolved to detect changes in sound in the environment.

Source article: Sohoglu & Chait (2016).

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Daniel Edgcumbe

I am studying towards my PhD in cognitive neuroscience at a leading London university

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