Evidence for opponent process analysis of sound source location in humans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review



Publication details

JournalJournal of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology
DatePublished - 2013
Issue number1
Number of pages19
Pages (from-to)83-101
Original languageEnglish


Research with barn owls suggested that sound source
location is represented topographically in the brain by
an array of neurons each tuned to a narrow range of
locations. However, research with small-headed mammals
has offered an alternative view in which location is
represented by the balance of activity in two opponent
channels broadly tuned to the left and right auditory
space. Both channels may be present in each auditory
cortex, although the channel representing contralateral
space may be dominant. Recent studies have suggested
that opponent channel coding of space may also apply
in humans, although these studies have used a restricted
set of spatial cues or probed a restricted set of spatial
locations, and there have been contradictory reports as
to the relative dominance of the ipsilateral and contralateral
channels in each cortex. The current study used
electroencephalography (EEG) in conjunction with
sound field stimulus presentation to address these issues
and to inform the development of an explicit computational
model of human sound source localization.
Neural responses were compatible with the opponent
channel account of sound source localization and with
contralateral channel dominance in the left, but not the
right, auditory cortex. A computational opponent
channel model reproduced every important aspect of
the EEG data and allowed inferences about the width of
tuning in the spatial channels. Moreover, the model
predicted the oft-reported decrease in spatial acuity
measured psychophysically with increasing reference
azimuth. Predictions of spatial acuity closely matched
those measured psychophysically by previous authors.

    Research areas

  • sound source location – opponent process – electroencephalography – continuous stimulation paradigm – computational modeling – minimum audible angle

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