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Laterality of basic auditory perception

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Laterality (left–right ear differences) of auditory processing was assessed using basic auditory skills: (1) gap detection, (2) frequency discrimination, and (3) intensity discrimination. Stimuli included tones (500, 1000, and 4000 Hz) and wide-band noise presented monaurally to each ear of typical adult listeners. The hypothesis tested was that processing of tonal stimuli would be enhanced by left ear (LE) stimulation and noise by right ear (RE) presentations. To investigate the limits of laterality by (1) spectral width, a narrow-band noise (NBN) of 450-Hz bandwidth was evaluated using intensity discrimination, and (2) stimulus duration, 200, 500, and 1000 ms duration tones were evaluated using frequency discrimination. A left ear advantage (LEA) was demonstrated with tonal stimuli in all experiments, but an expected REA for noise stimuli was not found. The NBN stimulus demonstrated no LEA and was characterised as a noise. No change in laterality was found with changes in stimulus durations. The LEA for tonal stimuli is felt to be due to more direct connections between the left ear and the right auditory cortex, which has been shown to be primary for spectral analysis and tonal processing. The lack of a REA for noise stimuli is unexplained. Sex differences in laterality for noise stimuli were noted but were not statistically significant. This study did establish a subtle but clear pattern of LEA for processing of tonal stimuli.
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Keywords: Auditory perception; Frequency discrimination; Gap detection; Intensity discrimination; Lateral asymmetry

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Division of Head & Neck Surgery, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Los Angeles, CA, USA

Publication date: March 1, 2012

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