External and internal limitations in amplitude-modulation processing

Stephan Ewert, Torsten Dau

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Three experiments are presented to explore the relative role of "external" signal variability and "internal" resolution limitations of the auditory system in the detection and discrimination of amplitude modulations (AM). In the first experiment, AM-depth discrimination performance was determined using sinusoidally modulated broadband-noise and pure-tone carriers. The AM index, m, of the standard ranged from -28 to -3 dB (expressed as 20 log m). AM-depth discrimination thresholds were found to be a fraction of the AM depth of the standard for standards down to -18 dB, in the case of the pure-tone carrier, and down to -8 dB, in the case of the broadband-noise carrier. For smaller standards, AM-depth discrimination required a fixed increase in AM depth, independent of the AM depth of the standard. In the second experiment, AM-detection thresholds were obtained for signal-modulation frequencies of 4, 16, 64, and 256 Hz, applied to either a band-limited random-noise carrier or a deterministic ("frozen") noise carrier, as a function of carrier bandwidth (8 to 2048 Hz). In general, detection thresholds were higher for the random- than for the frozen-noise carriers. For both carrier types, thresholds followed the pattern expected from frequency-selective processing of the stimulus envelope. The third experiment investigated AM masking at 4, 16, and 64 Hz in the presence of a narrow-band masker modulation. The variability of the masker was changed from entirely frozen to entirely random, while the long-term average envelope power spectrum was held constant. The experiment examined the validity of a long-term average quantity as the decision variable, and the role of memory in experiments with frozen-noise maskers. The empirical results were compared to predictions obtained with two modulation-filterbank models. The predictions revealed that AM-depth discrimination and AM detection are limited by a combination of the external signal variability and an internal "Weber-fraction" noise process.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of the Acoustical Society of America
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)478-90
Publication statusPublished - 2004


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