Objective and subjective psychophysical measures of auditory stream integration and segregation

Christophe Micheyl, Andrew J. Oxenham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


The perceptual organization of sound sequences into auditory streams involves the integration of sounds into one stream and the segregation of sounds into separate streams. "Objective" psychophysical measures of auditory streaming can be obtained using behavioral tasks where performance is facilitated by segregation and hampered by integration, or vice versa. Traditionally, these two types of tasks have been tested in separate studies involving different listeners, procedures, and stimuli. Here, we tested subjects in two complementary temporal-gap discrimination tasks involving similar stimuli and procedures. One task was designed so that performance in it would be facilitated by perceptual integration; the other, so that performance would be facilitated by perceptual segregation. Thresholds were measured in both tasks under a wide range of conditions produced by varying three stimulus parameters known to influence stream formation: frequency separation, tone-presentation rate, and sequence length. In addition to these performance-based measures, subjective judgments of perceived segregation were collected in the same listeners under corresponding stimulus conditions. The patterns of results obtained in the two temporal-discrimination tasks, and the relationships between thresholds and perceived-segregation judgments, were mostly consistent with the hypothesis that stream segregation helped performance in one task and impaired performance in the other task. The tasks and stimuli described here may prove useful in future behavioral or neurophysiological experiments, which seek to manipulate and measure neural correlates of auditory streaming while minimizing differences between the physical stimuli.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)709-724
Number of pages16
JournalJARO - Journal of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2010

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders Grant R01 DC 07657. Nathan Heggem, then a summer student of the REU Program in the Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences organized by Celia Wolk Gershenson and Herb Pick, Department of Psychology, University of Minnesota, helped with data collection. Barbara Shinn-Cunningham and two anonymous reviewers provided many helpful comments on an earlier version of the manuscript.


  • auditory streaming
  • duration discrimination
  • integration
  • segregation


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