Neural mechanisms of auditory discrimination of long-duration tonal patterns: A neural modeling and FMRI study

Antonio Ulloa, Fatima T. Husain, Stefan Kemeny, Jiang Xu, Allen R. Braun, Barry Horwitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Language perception comprises mechanisms of perception and discrimination of auditory stimuli. An important component of auditory perception and discrimination concerns auditory objects. Many interesting auditory objects in our environment are of relatively long duration; however, the temporal window of integration of auditory cortex neurons processing these objects is very limited. Thus, it is necessary to make active use of short-term memory in order to construct and temporarily store long-duration objects. We sought to understand the mechanisms by which the brain manipulates long-duration tonal patterns, temporarily stores the segments of those patterns, and integrates them into an auditory object. We extended a previously constructed model of auditory recognition of short-duration tonal patterns by expanding the prefrontal cortically-based short-term memory module of the previous model into a memory buffer with multiple short-term memory submodules and by adding a gating module. The gating module distributes the segments of the input pattern to separate locations of the extended prefrontal cortex in an orderly fashion, allowing a subsequent comparison of the stored segments against the segments of a second pattern. In addition to simulating behavioral data and electrical activity of neurons, our model also produces simulations of the blood oxygen level dependent (BOLD) signal as obtained in fMRI studies. The results of these simulations provided us with predictions that we tested in an fMRI experiment with normal volunteers. This fMRI experiment used the same task and similar stimuli to that of the model. We compared simulated data with experimental values. We found that two brain areas, the right precentral gyrus and the left medial frontal gyrus, correlated well with our simulations of the memory gating module. Other fMRI studies of auditory perception and discrimination have also found correlation of fMRI activation of those areas with similar tasks and thus provide further support to our findings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)501-527
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Integrative Neuroscience
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Auditory objects
  • Brain
  • Human
  • Neuroimaging
  • Prefrontal cortex
  • Working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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