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Lis­ten­ing: The strat­e­gy mat­ters [Update]

In press on Neuropsychologia

Thal­a­m­ic and pari­etal brain mor­phol­o­gy pre­dicts audi­to­ry cat­e­go­ry learning


Cat­e­go­riz­ing sounds is vital for adap­tive human behav­ior. Accord­ing­ly, chang­ing lis­ten­ing sit­u­a­tions (exter­nal noise, but also periph­er­al hear­ing loss in aging) require lis­ten­ers to flex­i­bly adjust their cat­e­go­riza­tion strate­gies, e.g., switch amongst avail­able acoustic cues. How­ev­er, lis­ten­ers dif­fer con­sid­er­ably in these adap­tive capa­bil­i­ties. For this rea­son, we employed vox­el-based mor­phom­e­try (VBM) in our study (Neu­ropsy­cholo­gia, In press), in order to assess the degree to which indi­vid­ual brain mor­phol­o­gy is pre­dic­tive of such adap­tive lis­ten­ing behavior.

Our stim­u­lus mate­r­i­al was designed such that opti­mal cat­e­go­riza­tion was ini­tial­ly based on spectral/frequency cues, but lat­er required rel­a­tive­ly more atten­tion to dura­tion cues. Lis­ten­ers’ strat­e­gy use was assessed by logis­tic regres­sions. These analy­ses showed that good per­form­ers indeed uti­lized dura­tion cues to a greater extent in the lat­er part of the exper­i­ment than in the begin­ning. A major result of the whole-brain VBM analy­sis was that grey-mat­ter vol­ume (prob­a­bil­i­ty) of major hubs in selec­tive atten­tion net­works (in the infe­ri­or pari­etal cor­tex; IPL, SMG) was pre­dic­tive of this switch and uti­liza­tion of dura­tion cues. In con­trast, over­all cat­e­go­riza­tion per­for­mance was pre­dict­ed by mor­phol­o­gy of audi­to­ry thal­a­mus and parts of the pre-motor and motor cortices.

This work extends pre­vi­ous research on brain-structure–behavior rela­tions by com­bin­ing per­cep­tu­al response mod­el­ing with struc­tur­al brain mea­sures in order to fur­ther the knowl­edge of how spe­cif­ic acoustic cues (spec­tral and tem­po­ral) are adap­tive­ly uti­lized in domain-gen­er­al atten­tion (in con­trast to domain-spe­cif­ic audi­to­ry) networks.



Paper is avail­able here.


  • Scharinger M1, Hen­ry MJ2, Erb J2, Mey­er L3, Obleser J2. Thal­a­m­ic and pari­etal brain mor­phol­o­gy pre­dicts audi­to­ry cat­e­go­ry learn­ing. Neu­ropsy­cholo­gia. 2014 Jan;53:75–83. PMID: 24035788. [Open with Read]