Familiarity with speech affects cortical processing of auditory distance cues and increases acuity
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Several acoustic cues contribute to auditory distance estimation. Nonacoustic cues, including familiarity, may also play a role. We tested participants' ability to distinguish the distances of acoustically similar sounds that differed in familiarity. Participants were better able to judge the distances of familiar sounds. Electroencephalographic (EEG) recordings collected while participants performed this auditory distance judgment task revealed that several cortical regions responded in different ways depending on sound familiarity. Surprisingly, these differences were observed in auditory cortical regions as well as other cortical regions distributed throughout both hemispheres. These data suggest that learning about subtle, distance-dependent variations in complex speech sounds involves processing in a broad cortical network that contributes both to speech recognition and to how spatial information is extracted from speech. © 2012 Wisniewski et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
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