Using temporal expectation to assess auditory streaming in mice

Gaëlle A. Chapuis*, Paul T. Chadderton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
241 Downloads (Pure)


Auditory streaming is the process by which environmental sound is segregated into discrete perceptual objects. The auditory system has a remarkable capability in this regard as revealed in psychophysical experiments in humans and other primates. However, little is known about the underlying neuronal mechanisms, in part because of the lack of suitable behavioural paradigms in non-primate species. The mouse is an increasingly popular model for studying the neural mechanisms of perception and action because of the range of molecular tools enabling precise manipulation of neural circuitry. Here we present a novel behavioural task that can be used to assess perceptual aspects of auditory streaming in head-fixed mice. Animals were trained to detect a target sound in a one of two simultaneously presented, isochronous pure tone sequences. Temporal expectation was manipulated by presenting the target sound in a particular stream either early (~2 s) or late (~4 s) with respect to trial onset in blocks of 25-30 trials. Animals reached high performance on this task (d’ > 1 overall), and notably their false alarms were very instructive of their behavioural state. Indeed, false alarm timing was markedly delayed for late blocks compared to early ones, indicating that the animals associated a different context to an otherwise identical stimulus. More finely, we observed that the false alarms were timed to the onset of the sounds present in the target stream. This suggests that the animals could selectively follow the target stream despite the presence of a distractor stream. Extracellular electrophysiological recordings during the task revealed that sound processing is flexibly modulated in a manner consistent with the optimisation of behavioural outcome. Together, these results indicate that the perceptual streaming can be inferred via the timing of false alarms in mice, and provide a new paradigm with which to investigate neuronal mechanisms of selective attention.

Original languageEnglish
Article number205
Number of pages11
JournalFrontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - 11 Sep 2018


  • Auditory cortex (AC)
  • False alarm (FA)
  • Psychoacoustic
  • Scene analysis
  • Selective attention
  • Top-down pathways


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