Perceptual learning of auditory spectral modulation detection

Andrew T. Sabin*, David A. Eddins, Beverly A. Wright

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Normal sensory perception requires the ability to detect and identify patterns of activity distributed across the receptor surface. In the visual system, the ability to perceive these patterns across the retina improves with training. This learning differs in magnitude for different trained stimuli and does not generalize to untrained spatial frequencies or retinal locations. Here, we asked whether training to detect patterns of activity across the cochlea yields learning with similar characteristics. Differences in learning between the visual and auditory systems would be inconsistent with the suggestion that the ability to detect these patterns is limited by similar constraints in these two systems. We trained three groups of normal-hearing listeners to detect spectral envelopes with a sinusoidal shape (spectral modulation) at 0.5, 1, or 2 cycles/octave and compared the performance of each group to that of a separate group that received no training. On average, as the trained spectral modulation frequency increased, the magnitude of training-induced improvement and the time to reach asymptotic performance decreased, while the tendency for performance to worsen within a training session increased. The training-induced improvements did not generalize to untrained spectral modulation frequencies or untrained carrier spectra. Thus, for both visual-spatial and auditory spectral modulation detection, learning depended upon and was specific to analogous features of the trained stimulus. Such similarities in learning could arise if, as has been suggested, similar constraints limit the ability to detect patterns across the receptor surface between the auditory and visual systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)567-577
Number of pages11
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 2012


  • Contrast perception
  • Perceptual learning
  • Profile analysis
  • Spectral envelope
  • Spectral modulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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