Mar 25, 2020

Reaching to sounds in virtual reality: A multisensory-motor approach to re-learn sound localisation

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Chiara ValzolgherFrancesco Pavani

Abstract

When localising sounds in space the brain relies on internal models that specify the correspondence between the auditory input reaching the ears and initial head-position with coordinates in external space. These models can be updated throughout life, setting the basis for re-learning spatial hearing abilities in adulthood. This is particularly important for individuals who experience long-term auditory alterations (e.g., hearing loss, hearing aids, cochlear implants) as well as individuals who have to adapt to novel auditory cues when listening in virtual auditory environments. Until now, several methodological constraints have limited our understanding of the mechanisms involved in spatial hearing re-learning. In particular, the potential role of active listening and head-movements have remained largely overlooked. Here, we overcome these limitations by using a novel methodology, based on virtual reality and real-time kinematic tracking, to study the role of active multisensory-motor interactions with sounds in the updating of sound-space correspondences. Participants were immersed in a virtual reality scenario showing 17 speakers at ear-level. From each visible speaker a free-field real sound could be generated. Two separate...Continue Reading

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