Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour
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Thesis defense Guus van Bentum (Donders Series 616)

29 June 2023

Promotor: Prof. dr. A.J. van Opstal
Co-promotor: Dr. M.M. van Wanrooij

The what and where: Making sense of sounds around us

Humans are equipped with an extraordinary hearing sense. Not in terms of frequency perception, but in terms of spatial precision. Our brains have developed to be able to make sense of the cacophony of sounds we are being exposed to, and we are able to pinpoint the locations of multiple sources around us. This ability is greatly impeded when sounds arrive very shortly after each other at our ears, or even at the same time. In this research, we probed the workings of our auditory system with behavioural experiments to try and find when, and why, listeners are able to determine the presence and location of multiple sounds in a dark room. We found that two synchronously played sounds are localised as one, at a location in between both the sounds’ physical location. This behaviour is demonstrated for both the horizontal and vertical directions. The ability to indicate the presence (not the exact location) of two sounds was independent of the ability to localise them, and was modulated by the placement of the sounds with respect to the head.