We choose what we want to hear

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Science  30 Mar 2018:
Vol. 359, Issue 6383, pp. 1481-1482
DOI: 10.1126/science.359.6383.1481-d

To make sense of the outside world, the brain must organize and group information that arrives at our sensory organs. Can we consciously influence this perception process? Billig et al. measured brain activity while subjects listened to sequences of pure tones that could be interpreted as individual sounds or as an integrated percept. Listeners indicated when their perception changed between these two interpretations. These changes were associated with changes in auditory cortex activity. Participants could also consciously control how many objects they perceived in an ambiguous auditory scene. This led to similar changes in neural activity. Listeners can thus use attention not only to enhance the representation of a subset of sounds, but also to intentionally alter the number of distinct objects heard.

J. Neurosci. 38, 2844 (2018).

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