Modulation change detection in human auditory cortex: Evidence for asymmetric, non-linear edge detection

Seung Goo Kim, David Poeppel, Tobias Overath

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Changes in modulation rate are important cues for parsing acoustic signals, such as speech. We parametrically controlled modulation rate via the correlation coefficient (r) of amplitude spectra across fixed frequency channels between adjacent time frames: broadband modulation spectra are biased toward slow modulate rates with increasing r, and vice versa. By concatenating segments with different r, acoustic changes of various directions (e.g., changes from low to high correlation coefficients, that is, random-to-correlated or vice versa) and sizes (e.g., changes from low to high or from medium to high correlation coefficients) can be obtained. Participants listened to sound blocks and detected changes in correlation while MEG was recorded. Evoked responses to changes in correlation demonstrated (a) an asymmetric representation of change direction: random-to-correlated changes produced a prominent evoked field around 180 ms, while correlated-to-random changes evoked an earlier response with peaks at around 70 and 120 ms, whose topographies resemble those of the canonical P50m and N100m responses, respectively, and (b) a highly non-linear representation of correlation structure, whereby even small changes involving segments with a high correlation coefficient were much more salient than relatively large changes that did not involve segments with high correlation coefficients. Induced responses revealed phase tracking in the delta and theta frequency bands for the high correlation stimuli. The results confirm a high sensitivity for low modulation rates in human auditory cortex, both in terms of their representation and their segregation from other modulation rates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2889-2904
Number of pages16
JournalEuropean Journal of Neuroscience
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 1 2020


  • amplitude modulation
  • magnetoencephalography
  • spectrotemporal modulation
  • temporal edge detection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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