Representation of Sound Categories in Auditory Cortical Maps
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We used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate the representation of sound categories in human auditory cortex. Experiment 1 investigated the representation of prototypical and non-prototypical examples of a vowel sound. Listening to prototypical examples of a vowel resulted in less auditory cortical activation than listening to nonprototypical examples. Experiments 2 and 3 investigated the effects of categorization training and discrimination training with novel non-speech sounds on auditory cortical representations. The two training tasks were shown to have opposite effects on the auditory cortical representation of sounds experienced during training: discrimination training led to an increase in the amount of activation caused by the training stimuli, whereas categorization training led to decreased activation. These results indicate that the brain efficiently shifts neural resources away from regions of acoustic space where discrimination between sounds is not behaviorally important (e.g., near the center of a sound category) and toward regions where accurate discrimination is needed. The results also provide a straightforward neural account of learned aspects of categorical perception: sounds from the center of a category are more difficult to discriminate from each other than sounds near category boundaries because they are represented by fewer cells in the auditory cortical areas.
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