Human sound localization is an important computation performed by the brain. Models of sound localization commonly assume that sound lateralization from interaural time differences is level invariant. Here we observe that two prevalent theories of sound localization make opposing predictions. The labelled-line model encodes location through tuned representations of spatial location and predicts that perceived direction is level invariant. In contrast, the hemispheric-difference model encodes location through spike-rate and predicts that perceived direction becomes medially biased at low sound levels. Here, behavioral experiments find that softer sounds are perceived closer to midline than louder sounds, favoring rate-coding models of human sound localization. Analogously, visual depth perception, which is based on interocular disparity, depends on the contrast of the target. The similar results in hearing and vision suggest that the brain may use a canonical computation of location: encoding perceived location through population spike rate relative to baseline.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- General Neuroscience
- General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
- General Immunology and Microbiology