Interaural time (ITD) and level differences (ILD) constitute the two main cues for sound localization in the horizontal plane. Despite extensive research in animal models and humans, the mechanism of how these two cues are integrated into a unified percept is still far from clear. In this study, our aim was to test with human electroencephalography (EEG) whether integration of dynamic ITD and ILD cues is reflected in the so-called motion-onset response (MOR), an evoked potential elicited by moving sound sources.
To this end, ITD and ILD trajectories were determined individually by cue trading psychophysics. We then measured EEG while subjects were presented with either static click-trains or click-trains that contained a dynamic portion at the end. The dynamic part was created by combining ITD with ILD either congruently to elicit the percept of a right/leftward moving sound, or incongruently to elicit the percept of a static sound.
In two experiments that differed in the method to derive individual dynamic cue trading stimuli, we observed an MOR with at least a change-N1 (cN1) component for both the congruent and incongruent conditions at about 160–190 ms after motion-onset. A significant change-P2 (cP2) component for both the congruent and incongruent ITD/ILD combination was found only in the second experiment peaking at about 250 ms after motion onset.
In sum, this study shows that a sound which – by a combination of counter-balanced ITD and ILD cues – induces a static percept can still elicit a motion-onset response, indicative of independent ITD and ILD processing at the level of the MOR – a component that has been proposed to be, at least partly, generated in non-primary auditory cortex.