Neuromechanistic Model of Auditory Bistability

James Rankin, Elyse Sussman, John Rinzel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Sequences of higher frequency A and lower frequency B tones repeating in an ABA- triplet pattern are widely used to study auditory streaming. One may experience either an integrated percept, a single ABA-ABA- stream, or a segregated percept, separate but simultaneous streams A-A-A-A- and -B---B--. During minutes-long presentations, subjects may report irregular alternations between these interpretations. We combine neuromechanistic modeling and psychoacoustic experiments to study these persistent alternations and to characterize the effects of manipulating stimulus parameters. Unlike many phenomenological models with abstract, percept-specific competition and fixed inputs, our network model comprises neuronal units with sensory feature dependent inputs that mimic the pulsatile-like A1 responses to tones in the ABA- triplets. It embodies a neuronal computation for percept competition thought to occur beyond primary auditory cortex (A1). Mutual inhibition, adaptation and noise are implemented. We include slow NDMA recurrent excitation for local temporal memory that enables linkage across sound gaps from one triplet to the next. Percepts in our model are identified in the firing patterns of the neuronal units. We predict with the model that manipulations of the frequency difference between tones A and B should affect the dominance durations of the stronger percept, the one dominant a larger fraction of time, more than those of the weaker percept—a property that has been previously established and generalized across several visual bistable paradigms. We confirm the qualitative prediction with our psychoacoustic experiments and use the behavioral data to further constrain and improve the model, achieving quantitative agreement between experimental and modeling results. Our work and model provide a platform that can be extended to consider other stimulus conditions, including the effects of context and volition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1004555
JournalPLoS computational biology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Ecology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics


Dive into the research topics of 'Neuromechanistic Model of Auditory Bistability'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this