auditory neuroscience context

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New paper on SIT with human subjects is now out
Our perception is based on active sensing, i.e., the relationship between self-motion and resulting changes to sensory inputs. Yet, traditional experimental paradigms are characterized by delayed reactions to a predetermined stimulus sequence. To increase the engagement of subjects and potentially provide richer behavioral responses, we developed Sensory Island Task for humans (SITh), a freely-moving search paradigm to study auditory perception. In SITh, subjects navigate an arena in search of an auditory target, relying solely on changes in the presented stimulus frequency, which is controlled by closed-loop position tracking. A “target frequency” was played when subjects entered a circular sub-area of the arena, the “island”, while different frequencies were presented outside the island. Island locations were randomized across trials, making stimulus frequency the only informative cue for task completion. Two versions of SITh were studied: binary discrimination, and gradual change of the stimulus frequency. The latter version allowed determining frequency discrimination thresholds based on the subjects’ report of the perceived island location (i.e., target frequency). Surprisingly, subjects exhibited similar thresholds as reported in traditional “stationary” forced-choice experiments after performing only 30 trials, highlighting the intuitive nature of SITh. Notably, subjects spontaneously employed a small variety of stereotypical search patterns, and their usage proportions varied between task versions. Moreover, frequency discrimination performance depended on the search pattern used. Overall, we demonstrate that the use of an ecologically driven paradigm is able to reproduce established findings while simultaneously providing rich behavioral data for the description of sensory ethology.

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