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A neuronal representation of the location of nearby sounds

Abstract

Humans can accurately perceive the location of a sound source—not only the direction, but also the distance1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9. Sounds near the head, within ducking or reaching distance, have a special saliency. However, little is known about this perception of auditory distance. The direction to a sound source can be determined by interaural differences, and the mechanisms of direction perception have been studied intensively1; but except for studies on echolocation in the bat10, little is known about how neurons encode information on auditory distance. Here we describe neurons in the brain of macaque monkeys (Macaca fascicularis) that represent the auditory space surrounding the head, within roughly 30 cm. These neurons, which are located in the ventral premotor cortex, have spatial receptive fields that extend a limited distance outward from the head.

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Figure 1: Responses of bimodal and trimodal neurons in PMv.
Figure 2: Auditory responses of four trimodal neurons to white noise, presented at five amplitudes and three distances from the head.

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Acknowledgements

We thank E. Olson, X. Hu, S. Alisharan, M. E. Wheeler and V. Gomez for their help during the experiment.

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Correspondence to Michael S. A. Graziano.

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Graziano, M., Reiss, L. & Gross, C. A neuronal representation of the location of nearby sounds. Nature 397, 428–430 (1999). https://doi.org/10.1038/17115

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