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Stimulus Variability Affects the Amplitude of the Auditory Steady-State Response

Public Library of Science
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0034668
  • Research Article
  • Biology
  • Neuroscience
  • Sensory Perception
  • Psychoacoustics
  • Sensory Systems
  • Auditory System
  • Neuroimaging
  • Neurophysiology
  • Neuropsychology
  • Medicine
  • Mental Health
  • Psychology
  • Physics
  • Classical Mechanics
  • Acoustics
  • Physical Laws And Principles
  • Social And Behavioral Sciences
  • Musicology
  • Physics


In this study we investigate whether stimulus variability affects the auditory steady-state response (ASSR). We present cosinusoidal AM pulses as stimuli where we are able to manipulate waveform shape independently of the fixed repetition rate of 4 Hz. We either present sounds in which the waveform shape, the pulse-width, is fixed throughout the presentation or where it varies pseudo-randomly. Importantly, the average spectra of all the fixed-width AM stimuli are equal to the spectra of the mixed-width AM. Our null hypothesis is that the average ASSR to the fixed-width AM will not be significantly different from the ASSR to the mixed-width AM. In a region of interest beamformer analysis of MEG data, we compare the 4 Hz component of the ASSR to the mixed-width AM with the 4 Hz component of the ASSR to the pooled fixed-width AM. We find that at the group level, there is a significantly greater response to the variable mixed-width AM at the medial boundary of the Middle and Superior Temporal Gyri. Hence, we find that adding variability into AM stimuli increases the amplitude of the ASSR. This observation is important, as it provides evidence that analysis of the modulation waveform shape is an integral part of AM processing. Therefore, standard steady-state studies in audition, using sinusoidal AM, may not be sensitive to a key feature of acoustic processing.

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