Holger Schulze and his team found a surprising answer: the auditory system can discriminate voices according to their time structure. Only signals from the chosen voice will be processed, while processing of all the other voices is inhibited: the winner takes it all.
Everybody who attends a cocktail party from time to time might have realized the amazing ability of our auditory system to be able to listen to and understand somebody speaking while many other people are talking loudly at the same time. This so-called "cocktail party phenomenon" is based on the ability of the human auditory system to decompose the acoustic world into discrete objects of perception. It was originally believed that the major acoustic cue the auditory system uses to solve this task is directional information of the sound source, but even though localisation of different sound sources with two ears improves the performance, it can be achieved monaurally, for example in telephone conversations, where no directional information is available.
Scientists from the Leibniz-Institute for Neurobiology in Magdeburg, and the Universities of Ulm, Newcastle and Erlangen, have now found a neuronal mechanism in the auditory system that is able to solve the task based on the analysis of the temporal fine structure of the acoustic scene. The idea is that different speakers have different temporal fine structures in their voiced speech and that such signals are represented in different areas of the auditory cortex according to this different time structure. By means of a so-called "winner-take-all" algorithm one of these representations then gains control over all other representations.
Their findings led us to a deeper understanding of how the parcellation of sensory input from perceptually distinct objects is realised in the brain, and may, for example, help to improve hearing aids for which cocktail party-like situations are still a major problem.
Press release to accompany the article "Auditory Cortical Contrast Enhancing by Global Winner-Take-All Inhibitory Interactions" by Simone Kurt, Anke Deutscher, John M. Crook, Frank W. Ohl, Eike Budinger, Christoph K. Moeller, Henning Scheich, and Holger Schulze to appear in PLoS ONE on Wednesday, March 5.
Dr. Constanze Seidenbecher | idw
Multi-institutional collaboration uncovers how molecular machines assemble
02.12.2016 | Salk Institute
Fertilized egg cells trigger and monitor loss of sperm’s epigenetic memory
02.12.2016 | IMBA - Institut für Molekulare Biotechnologie der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften GmbH
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy