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Open Access Reconstructing Stimulus Space Geometry from Auditory Cortex Responses

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When comparing different stimuli one often needs to estimate distances between them, for example differences in frequency of tones. If one considers the distances between all stimuli, then the stimuli can be organized in a geometric arrangement. For example, pure tones are defined by their frequency and thus form a straight line, while Shepard tones are identical after an octave shift and thus form a circle. Previously, representational similarity analysis (RSA) was proposed to infer the geometric relations between neurally encoded stimuli from distances between their population responses. Applied to single unit responses of ferret auditory cortex, we find that RSA produces a warped large-scale geometry of the stimulus set. We find this to be caused by spectrally localized neural responses, as is typical in primary auditory cortex. We extend RSA to global RSA (gRSA) by estimating global distances from local distances, using stochastic integration along stimulus neighborhoods. We demonstrate that gRSA can distinguish the physical, overall geometries for pure and Shepard tones. The proposed approach is relevant in many auditory tasks such as estimating sound direction (2D sphere) and position (3D space) or segregating streams in auditory scenes.

© 2018 The Author(s). Published by S. Hirzel Verlag · EAA. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) license (

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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2018

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  • Acta Acustica united with Acustica, published together with the European Acoustics Association (EAA), is an international, peer-reviewed journal on acoustics. It publishes original articles on all subjects in the field of acoustics, such as general linear acoustics, nonlinear acoustics, macrosonics, flow acoustics, atmospheric sound, underwater sound, ultrasonics, physical acoustics, structural acoustics, noise control, active control, environmental noise, building acoustics, room acoustics, acoustic materials, acoustic signal processing, computational and numerical acoustics, hearing, audiology and psychoacoustics, speech, musical acoustics, electroacoustics, auditory quality of systems. It reports on original scientific research in acoustics and on engineering applications. The journal considers scientific papers, technical and applied papers, book reviews, short communications, doctoral thesis abstracts, etc. In irregular intervals also special issues and review articles are published.
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