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Psychophysical evidence for auditory motion parallax

Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 115: 4264-4269. pii: 201712058. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1712058115. Epub 2018 Mar 12.

Authors/Editors: Genzel D
Schutte M
Brimijoin WO
MacNeilage PR
Wiegrebe L
Publication Date: 2018
Type of Publication: Journal Articles 2010 - 2019


Distance is important: From an ecological perspective, knowledge about the distance to either prey or predator is vital. However, the distance of an unknown sound source is particularly difficult to assess, especially in anechoic environments. In vision, changes in perspective resulting from observer motion produce a reliable, consistent, and unambiguous impression of depth known as motion parallax. Here we demonstrate with formal psychophysics that humans can exploit auditory motion parallax, i.e., the change in the dynamic binaural cues elicited by self-motion, to assess the relative depths of two sound sources. Our data show that sensitivity to relative depth is best when subjects move actively; performance deteriorates when subjects are moved by a motion platform or when the sound sources themselves move. This is true even though the dynamic binaural cues elicited by these three types of motion are identical. Our data demonstrate a perceptual strategy to segregate intermittent sound sources in depth and highlight the tight interaction between self-motion and binaural processing that allows assessment of the spatial layout of complex acoustic scenes.

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