Interaction of Object Binding Cues in Binaural Masking Pattern Experiments

Jesko Verhey, Björn Lübken, Steven van de Par

Object binding cues such as binaural and across-frequency modulation cues are likely to be used by the auditory system to separate sounds from different sources in complex auditory scenes. The present study investigates the interaction of these cues in a binaural masking pattern paradigm where a sinusoidal target is masked by a narrowband noise. It was hypothesized that beating between signal and masker may contribute to signal detection when signal and masker do not spectrally overlap but that this cue could not be used in combination with interaural cues. To test this hypothesis an additional sinusoidal interferer was added to the noise masker with a lower frequency than the noise whereas the target had a higher frequency than the noise. Thresholds increase when the interferer is added. This effect is largest when the spectral interferer-masker and masker-signal distances are equal. The result supports the hypothesis that modulation cues contribute to signal detection in the classical masking paradigm and that these are analysed with modulation bandpass filters. A monaural model including an across-frequency modulation process is presented that account for this effect. Interestingly, the interferer also affects dichotic thresholds indicating that modulation cues also play a role in binaural processing.