Predicting auditory tone-in-noise detection performance: the effects of neural variability.
Collecting and analyzing psychophysical data is a fundamental mechanism for the study of auditory processing. However, because this approach relies on human listening experiments, it can be costly in terms of time and money spent gathering the data. The development of a theoretical, model-based procedure capable of accurately predicting psychophysical behavior could alleviate these issues by enabling researchers to rapidly evaluate hypotheses prior to conducting experiments. This approach may also provide additional insight into auditory processing by establishing a link between psychophysical behavior and physiology. Signal detection theory has previously been combined with an auditory model to generate theoretical predictions of psychophysical behavior. Commonly, the ideal processor outperforms human subjects. In order for this model-based technique to enhance the study of auditory processing, discrepancies must be eliminated or explained. In this paper, we investigate the possibility that neural variability, which results from the randomness inherent in auditory nerve fiber responses, may explain some of the previously observed discrepancies. In addition, we study the impact of combining information across nerve fibers and investigate several models of multiple-fiber signal processing. Our findings suggest that neural variability can account for much, but not all, of the discrepancy between theoretical and experimental data.
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