Selective adaptation to "oddball" sounds by the human auditory system.
Simpson AJ., Harper NS., Reiss JD., McAlpine D.
Adaptation to both common and rare sounds has been independently reported in neurophysiological studies using probabilistic stimulus paradigms in small mammals. However, the apparent sensitivity of the mammalian auditory system to the statistics of incoming sound has not yet been generalized to task-related human auditory perception. Here, we show that human listeners selectively adapt to novel sounds within scenes unfolding over minutes. Listeners' performance in an auditory discrimination task remains steady for the most common elements within the scene but, after the first minute, performance improves for distinct and rare (oddball) sound elements, at the expense of rare sounds that are relatively less distinct. Our data provide the first evidence of enhanced coding of oddball sounds in a human auditory discrimination task and suggest the existence of an adaptive mechanism that tracks the long-term statistics of sounds and deploys coding resources accordingly.