Theta band oscillations reflect more than entrainment: Behavioral and neural evidence demonstrates an active chunking process

Xiangbin Teng, Xing Tian, Keith Doelling, David Poeppel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Parsing continuous acoustic streams into perceptual units is fundamental to auditory perception. Previous studies have uncovered a cortical entrainment mechanism in the delta and theta bands (~1-8 Hz) that correlates with formation of perceptual units in speech, music, and other quasi-rhythmic stimuli. Whether cortical oscillations in the delta-theta bands are passively entrained by regular acoustic patterns or play an active role in parsing the acoustic stream is debated. Here, we investigate cortical oscillations using novel stimuli with 1/f modulation spectra. These 1/f signals have no rhythmic structure but contain information over many timescales because of their broadband modulation characteristics. We chose 1/f modulation spectra with varying exponents of f, which simulate the dynamics of environmental noise, speech, vocalizations, and music. While undergoing magnetoencephalography (MEG) recording, participants listened to 1/f stimuli and detected embedded target tones. Tone detection performance varied across stimuli of different exponents and can be explained by local signal-to-noise ratio computed using a temporal window around 200 ms. Furthermore, theta band oscillations, surprisingly, were observed for all stimuli, but robust phase coherence was preferentially displayed by stimuli with exponents 1 and 1.5. We constructed an auditory processing model to quantify acoustic information on various timescales and correlated the model outputs with the neural results. We show that cortical oscillations reflect a chunking of segments, > 200 ms. These results suggest an active auditory segmentation mechanism, complementary to entrainment, operating on a timescale of ~200 ms to organize acoustic information.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalEuropean Journal of Neuroscience
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2017

Fingerprint

Acoustics
Music
Auditory Perception
Magnetoencephalography
Signal-To-Noise Ratio
Noise

Keywords

  • Auditory perception
  • Auditory system
  • MEG analysis
  • Oscillation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

Cite this

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title = "Theta band oscillations reflect more than entrainment: Behavioral and neural evidence demonstrates an active chunking process",
abstract = "Parsing continuous acoustic streams into perceptual units is fundamental to auditory perception. Previous studies have uncovered a cortical entrainment mechanism in the delta and theta bands (~1-8 Hz) that correlates with formation of perceptual units in speech, music, and other quasi-rhythmic stimuli. Whether cortical oscillations in the delta-theta bands are passively entrained by regular acoustic patterns or play an active role in parsing the acoustic stream is debated. Here, we investigate cortical oscillations using novel stimuli with 1/f modulation spectra. These 1/f signals have no rhythmic structure but contain information over many timescales because of their broadband modulation characteristics. We chose 1/f modulation spectra with varying exponents of f, which simulate the dynamics of environmental noise, speech, vocalizations, and music. While undergoing magnetoencephalography (MEG) recording, participants listened to 1/f stimuli and detected embedded target tones. Tone detection performance varied across stimuli of different exponents and can be explained by local signal-to-noise ratio computed using a temporal window around 200 ms. Furthermore, theta band oscillations, surprisingly, were observed for all stimuli, but robust phase coherence was preferentially displayed by stimuli with exponents 1 and 1.5. We constructed an auditory processing model to quantify acoustic information on various timescales and correlated the model outputs with the neural results. We show that cortical oscillations reflect a chunking of segments, > 200 ms. These results suggest an active auditory segmentation mechanism, complementary to entrainment, operating on a timescale of ~200 ms to organize acoustic information.",
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AU - Poeppel, David

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AB - Parsing continuous acoustic streams into perceptual units is fundamental to auditory perception. Previous studies have uncovered a cortical entrainment mechanism in the delta and theta bands (~1-8 Hz) that correlates with formation of perceptual units in speech, music, and other quasi-rhythmic stimuli. Whether cortical oscillations in the delta-theta bands are passively entrained by regular acoustic patterns or play an active role in parsing the acoustic stream is debated. Here, we investigate cortical oscillations using novel stimuli with 1/f modulation spectra. These 1/f signals have no rhythmic structure but contain information over many timescales because of their broadband modulation characteristics. We chose 1/f modulation spectra with varying exponents of f, which simulate the dynamics of environmental noise, speech, vocalizations, and music. While undergoing magnetoencephalography (MEG) recording, participants listened to 1/f stimuli and detected embedded target tones. Tone detection performance varied across stimuli of different exponents and can be explained by local signal-to-noise ratio computed using a temporal window around 200 ms. Furthermore, theta band oscillations, surprisingly, were observed for all stimuli, but robust phase coherence was preferentially displayed by stimuli with exponents 1 and 1.5. We constructed an auditory processing model to quantify acoustic information on various timescales and correlated the model outputs with the neural results. We show that cortical oscillations reflect a chunking of segments, > 200 ms. These results suggest an active auditory segmentation mechanism, complementary to entrainment, operating on a timescale of ~200 ms to organize acoustic information.

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