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Concept: Sound


Following a planktonic dispersal period of days to months, the larvae of benthic marine organisms must locate suitable seafloor habitat in which to settle and metamorphose. For animals that are sessile or sedentary as adults, settlement onto substrates that are adequate for survival and reproduction is particularly critical, yet represents a challenge since patchily distributed settlement sites may be difficult to find along a coast or within an estuary. Recent studies have demonstrated that the underwater soundscape, the distinct sounds that emanate from habitats and contain information about their biological and physical characteristics, may serve as broad-scale environmental cue for marine larvae to find satisfactory settlement sites. Here, we contrast the acoustic characteristics of oyster reef and off-reef soft bottoms, and investigate the effect of habitat-associated estuarine sound on the settlement patterns of an economically and ecologically important reef-building bivalve, the Eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica). Subtidal oyster reefs in coastal North Carolina, USA show distinct acoustic signatures compared to adjacent off-reef soft bottom habitats, characterized by consistently higher levels of sound in the 1.5-20 kHz range. Manipulative laboratory playback experiments found increased settlement in larval oyster cultures exposed to oyster reef sound compared to unstructured soft bottom sound or no sound treatments. In field experiments, ambient reef sound produced higher levels of oyster settlement in larval cultures than did off-reef sound treatments. The results suggest that oyster larvae have the ability to respond to sounds indicative of optimal settlement sites, and this is the first evidence that habitat-related differences in estuarine sounds influence the settlement of a mollusk. Habitat-specific sound characteristics may represent an important settlement and habitat selection cue for estuarine invertebrates and could play a role in driving settlement and recruitment patterns in marine communities.

Concepts: Acoustics, Ostreidae, Oyster, Sound, Mollusca, Eastern oyster, Metamorphosis, Virginia


BACKGROUND: Like human infants, songbirds learn their species-specific vocalizations through imitation learning. The birdsong system has emerged as a widely used experimental animal model for understanding the underlying neural mechanisms responsible for vocal production learning. However, how neural impulses are translated into precise motor behavior of the complex vocal organ (syrinx) to create song is poorly understood. First and foremost, we lack a detailed understanding of syringeal morphology. RESULTS: To fill this gap we combined non-invasive (high-field magnetic resonance imaging and micro-computed tomography) and invasive techniques (histology and micro-dissection) to construct the annotated high-resolution three-dimensional (3D) dataset, or morphome, of the zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata) syrinx. We identified and annotated syringeal cartilage, bone, and musculature in situ in unprecedented detail. e provide interactive 3D models that greatly improve the communication of complex morphological data and of our understanding of syringeal function in general. CONCLUSIONS: Our results show that the syringeal skeleton is optimized for low weight driven by physiological constraints on song production. The present refinement of muscle organization and identity elucidates how apposed muscles actuate different syringeal elements. Our dataset allows for more precise predictions about muscle co-activation and synergies and has important implications for muscle activity and stimulation experiments. We also demonstrate how the syrinx can be stabilized during song to reduce mechanical noise and, as such, enhance repetitive execution of stereotypic motor patterns. In addition, we identify a cartilaginous structure suited to play a crucial role in the uncoupling of sound frequency and amplitude control, which permits a novel explanation to the evolutionary success of songbirds.

Concepts: Heart, Muscle, Magnetic resonance imaging, Taeniopygia, Zebra Finch, Sound, Connective tissue, Songbird


Timbre is the attribute of sound that allows humans and other animals to distinguish among different sound sources. Studies based on psychophysical judgments of musical timbre, ecological analyses of sound’s physical characteristics as well as machine learning approaches have all suggested that timbre is a multifaceted attribute that invokes both spectral and temporal sound features. Here, we explored the neural underpinnings of musical timbre. We used a neuro-computational framework based on spectro-temporal receptive fields, recorded from over a thousand neurons in the mammalian primary auditory cortex as well as from simulated cortical neurons, augmented with a nonlinear classifier. The model was able to perform robust instrument classification irrespective of pitch and playing style, with an accuracy of 98.7%. Using the same front end, the model was also able to reproduce perceptual distance judgments between timbres as perceived by human listeners. The study demonstrates that joint spectro-temporal features, such as those observed in the mammalian primary auditory cortex, are critical to provide the rich-enough representation necessary to account for perceptual judgments of timbre by human listeners, as well as recognition of musical instruments.

Concepts: Brain, Temporal lobe, Cerebrum, Auditory system, Sound, Music, Musical instrument, Timbre


Sexual selection has resulted in sex-based size dimorphism in many mammals, including humans. In Western societies, average to taller stature men and comparatively shorter, slimmer women have higher reproductive success and are typically considered more attractive. This size dimorphism also extends to vocalisations in many species, again including humans, with larger individuals exhibiting lower formant frequencies than smaller individuals. Further, across many languages there are associations between phonemes and the expression of size (e.g. large /a, o/, small /i, e/), consistent with the frequency-size relationship in vocalisations. We suggest that naming preferences are a product of this frequency-size relationship, driving male names to sound larger and female names smaller, through sound symbolism. In a 10-year dataset of the most popular British, Australian and American names we show that male names are significantly more likely to contain larger sounding phonemes (e.g. “Thomas”), while female names are significantly more likely to contain smaller phonemes (e.g. “Emily”). The desire of parents to have comparatively larger, more masculine sons, and smaller, more feminine daughters, and the increased social success that accompanies more sex-stereotyped names, is likely to be driving English-language first names to exploit sound symbolism of size in line with sexual body size dimorphism.

Concepts: Human, Male, Reproduction, Female, Gender, Sound, Personal name, Norwegian language


A common approach for determining musical competence is to rely on information about individuals' extent of musical training, but relying on musicianship status fails to identify musically untrained individuals with musical skill, as well as those who, despite extensive musical training, may not be as skilled. To counteract this limitation, we developed a new test battery (Profile of Music Perception Skills; PROMS) that measures perceptual musical skills across multiple domains: tonal (melody, pitch), qualitative (timbre, tuning), temporal (rhythm, rhythm-to-melody, accent, tempo), and dynamic (loudness). The PROMS has satisfactory psychometric properties for the composite score (internal consistency and test-retest r>.85) and fair to good coefficients for the individual subtests (.56 to.85). Convergent validity was established with the relevant dimensions of Gordon’s Advanced Measures of Music Audiation and Musical Aptitude Profile (melody, rhythm, tempo), the Musical Ear Test (rhythm), and sample instrumental sounds (timbre). Criterion validity was evidenced by consistently sizeable and significant relationships between test performance and external musical proficiency indicators in all three studies (.38 to.62, p<.05 to p<.01). An absence of correlations between test scores and a nonmusical auditory discrimination task supports the battery's discriminant validity (-.05, ns). The interrelationships among the various subtests could be accounted for by two higher order factors, sequential and sensory music processing. A brief version of the full PROMS is introduced as a time-efficient approximation of the full version of the battery.

Concepts: Psychometrics, Skill, Validity, Reliability, Sound, Music, Test


Spin-transfer torques offer great promise for the development of spin-based devices. The effects of spin-transfer torques are typically analysed in terms of adiabatic and non-adiabatic contributions. Currently, a comprehensive interpretation of the non-adiabatic term remains elusive, with suggestions that it may arise from universal effects related to dissipation processes in spin dynamics, while other studies indicate a strong influence from the symmetry of magnetization gradients. Here we show that enhanced magnetic imaging under dynamic excitation can be used to differentiate between non-adiabatic spin-torque and extraneous influences. We combine Lorentz microscopy with gigahertz excitations to map the orbit of a magnetic vortex core with <5 nm resolution. Imaging of the gyrotropic motion reveals subtle changes in the ellipticity, amplitude and tilt of the orbit as the vortex is driven through resonance, providing a robust method to determine the non-adiabatic spin torque parameter β=0.15±0.02 with unprecedented precision, independent of external effects.

Concepts: Magnetic field, Angular momentum, Fundamental physics concepts, Torque, Magnetism, Magnetic moment, Force, Sound


In anurans reproductive behavior is strongly seasonal. During the spring, frogs emerge from hibernation and males vocalize for mating or advertising territories. Female frogs have the ability to evaluate the quality of the males' resources on the basis of these vocalizations. Although studies revealed that central single torus semicircularis neurons in frogs exhibit season plasticity, the plasticity of peripheral auditory sensitivity in frog is unknown. In this study the seasonally plasticity of peripheral auditory sensitivity was test in the Emei music frog Babina daunchina, by comparing thresholds and latencies of auditory brainstem responses (ABRs) evoked by tone pips and clicks in the reproductive and non-reproductive seasons. The results show that both ABR thresholds and latency differ significantly between the reproductive and non-reproductive seasons. The thresholds of tone pip evoked ABRs in the non-reproductive season increased significantly about 10 dB than those in the reproductive season for frequencies from 1 KHz to 6 KHz. ABR latencies to waveform valley values for tone pips for the same frequencies using appropriate threshold stimulus levels are longer than those in the reproductive season for frequencies from 1.5 to 6 KHz range, although from 0.2 to 1.5 KHz range it is shorter in the non-reproductive season. These results demonstrated that peripheral auditory frequency sensitivity exhibits seasonal plasticity changes which may be adaptive to seasonal reproductive behavior in frogs.

Concepts: Frequency, Hertz, Season, Sound, Spring, Frog, Winter, Seasons


For the perception of timbre of a musical instrument, the attack time is known to hold crucial information. The first 50 to 150 ms of sound onset reflect the excitation mechanism, which generates the sound. Since auditory processing and music perception in particular are known to be hampered in cochlear implant (CI) users, we conducted an electroencephalography (EEG) study with an oddball paradigm to evaluate the processing of small differences in musical sound onset. The first 60 ms of a cornet sound were manipulated in order to examine whether these differences are detected by CI users and normal-hearing controls (NH controls), as revealed by auditory evoked potentials (AEPs). Our analysis focused on the N1 as an exogenous component known to reflect physical stimuli properties as well as on the P2 and the Mismatch Negativity (MMN). Our results revealed different N1 latencies as well as P2 amplitudes and latencies for the onset manipulations in both groups. An MMN could be elicited only in the NH control group. Together with additional findings that suggest an impact of musical training on CI users' AEPs, our findings support the view that impaired timbre perception in CI users is at partly due to altered sound onset feature detection.

Concepts: Electroencephalography, Evoked potential, Sound, Music, Event-related potential, Musical instrument, Orchestra, Trumpet


Older adults frequently complain that while they can hear a person talking, they cannot understand what is being said; this difficulty is exacerbated by background noise. Peripheral hearing loss cannot fully account for this age-related decline in speech-in-noise ability, as declines in central processing also contribute to this problem. Given that musicians have enhanced speech-in-noise perception, we aimed to define the effects of musical experience on subcortical responses to speech and speech-in-noise perception in middle-aged adults. Results reveal that musicians have enhanced neural encoding of speech in quiet and noisy settings. Enhancements include faster neural response timing, higher neural response consistency, more robust encoding of speech harmonics, and greater neural precision. Taken together, we suggest that musical experience provides perceptual benefits in an aging population by strengthening the underlying neural pathways necessary for the accurate representation of important temporal and spectral features of sound.

Concepts: Understanding, Middle age, Sense, Acoustics, Aging, Sound, Hearing, Music


Amplitude modulation can serve as a cue for segregating streams of sounds from different sources. Here we evaluate stream segregation in humans using ABA- sequences of sinusoidally amplitude modulated (SAM) tones. A and B represent SAM tones with the same carrier frequency (1000, 4000 Hz) and modulation depth (30, 100%). The modulation frequency of the A signals (f(modA)) was 30, 100 or 300 Hz, respectively. The modulation frequency of the B signals was up to four octaves higher (Δf(mod)). Three different ABA- tone patterns varying in tone duration and stimulus onset asynchrony were presented to evaluate the effect of forward suppression. Subjects indicated their 1- or 2-stream percept on a touch screen at the end of each ABA- sequence (presentation time 5 or 15 s). Tone pattern, f(modA), Δf(mod), carrier frequency, modulation depth and presentation time significantly affected the percentage of a 2-stream percept. The human psychophysical results are compared to responses of avian forebrain neurons evoked by different ABA- SAM tone conditions [1] that were broadly overlapping those of the present study. The neurons also showed significant effects of tone pattern and Δf(mod) that were comparable to effects observed in the present psychophysical study. Depending on the carrier frequency, modulation frequency, modulation depth and the width of the auditory filters, SAM tones may provide mainly temporal cues (sidebands fall within the range of the filter), spectral cues (sidebands fall outside the range of the filter) or possibly both. A computational model based on excitation pattern differences was used to predict the 50% threshold of 2-stream responses. In conditions for which the model predicts a considerably larger 50% threshold of 2-stream responses (i.e., larger Δf(mod) at threshold) than was observed, it is unlikely that spectral cues can provide an explanation of stream segregation by SAM.

Concepts: Modulation, Sound, Frequency modulation, Amplitude modulation, Carrier wave, Baseband, Single-sideband modulation, Quadrature amplitude modulation