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The Effect of Visual Perceptual Load on Auditory Processing

Molloy, Katharine; (2021) The Effect of Visual Perceptual Load on Auditory Processing. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Many fundamental aspects of auditory processing occur even when we are not attending to the auditory environment. This has led to a popular belief that auditory signals are analysed in a largely pre-attentive manner, allowing hearing to serve as an early warning system. However, models of attention highlight that even processes that occur by default may rely on access to perceptual resources, and so can fail in situations when demand on sensory systems is particularly high. If this is the case for auditory processing, the classic paradigms employed in auditory attention research are not sufficient to distinguish between a process that is truly automatic (i.e., will occur regardless of any competing demands on sensory processing) and one that occurs passively (i.e., without explicit intent) but is dependent on resource-availability. An approach that addresses explicitly whether an aspect of auditory analysis is contingent on access to capacity-limited resources is to control the resources available to the process; this can be achieved by actively engaging attention in a different task that depletes perceptual capacity to a greater or lesser extent. If the critical auditory process is affected by manipulating the perceptual demands of the attended task this suggests that it is subject to the availability of processing resources; in contrast a process that is automatic should not be affected by the level of load in the attended task. This approach has been firmly established within vision, but has been used relatively little to explore auditory processing. In the experiments presented in this thesis, I use MEG, pupillometry and behavioural dual-task designs to explore how auditory processing is impacted by visual perceptual load. The MEG data presented illustrate that both the overall amplitude of auditory responses, and the computational capacity of the auditory system are affected by the degree of perceptual load in a concurrent visual task. These effects are mirrored by the pupillometry data in which pupil dilation is found to reflect both the degree of load in the attended visual task (with larger pupil dilation to the high compared to the low load visual load task), and the sensory processing of irrelevant auditory signals (with reduced dilation to sounds under high versus low visual load). The data highlight that previous assumptions that auditory processing can occur automatically may be too simplistic; in fact, though many aspects of auditory processing occur passively and benefit from the allocation of spare capacity, they are not strictly automatic. Moreover, the data indicate that the impact of visual load can be seen even on the early sensory cortical responses to sound, suggesting not only that cortical processing of auditory signals is dependent on the availability of resources, but also that these resources are part of a global pool shared between vision and audition.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: The Effect of Visual Perceptual Load on Auditory Processing
Event: UCL (University College London)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author 2021. Original content in this thesis is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0) Licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/). Any third-party copyright material present remains the property of its respective owner(s) and is licensed under its existing terms. Access may initially be restricted at the author’s request.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10126683
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