Cortical organization of environmental sounds by attribute.

Human brain mapping

PubMedID: 21391255

Hocking J, McMahon KL, de Zubicaray GI. Cortical organization of environmental sounds by attribute. Hum Brain Mapp. 2011;32(5):688-98.
Semantic knowledge is supported by a widely distributed neuronal network, with differential patterns of activation depending upon experimental stimulus or task demands. Despite a wide body of knowledge on semantic object processing from the visual modality, the response of this semantic network to environmental sounds remains relatively unknown. Here, we used fMRI to investigate how access to different conceptual attributes from environmental sound input modulates this semantic network. Using a range of living and manmade sounds, we scanned participants whilst they carried out an object attribute verification task. Specifically, we tested visual perceptual, encyclopedic, and categorical attributes about living and manmade objects relative to a high-level auditory perceptual baseline to investigate the differential patterns of response to these contrasting types of object-related attributes, whilst keeping stimulus input constant across conditions. Within the bilateral distributed network engaged for processing environmental sounds across all conditions, we report here a highly significant dissociation within the left hemisphere between the processing of visual perceptual and encyclopedic attributes of objects.