Our brain continuously receives complex combinations of sounds originating from different sources and relating to different events in the external world. Timing differences between the two ears can be used to localize sounds in space, but only when the inputs to the two ears have similar spectrotemporal profiles (high binaural coherence). We used fMRI to investigate any modulation of auditory responses by binaural coherence. We assessed how processing of these cues depends on whether spatial information is task relevant and whether brain activity correlates with subjects' localization performance. We found that activity in Heschl's gyrus increased with increasing coherence, irrespective of whether localization was task relevant. Posterior auditory regions also showed increased activity for high coherence, primarily when sound localization was required and subjects successfully localized sounds. We conclude that binaural coherence cues are processed throughout the auditory cortex and that these cues are used in posterior regions for successful auditory localization.
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