The temporal structure of perceptual experience

The perception of dynamically changing signals, the very basis of listening to language or music, or seeing naturalistic visual scenes, requires an analysis of the temporal information that forms (part of) the basis of such signals. What are the temporal primitives that underlie their perceptual analysis? How is incoming information temporally “sampled”? What type of temporal information is necessary to experience, say, rhythm, or syllable duration, or temporal intervals, or change in a sequence? Previous research suggests that human perceptual systems may optimize their processing by operating within specific temporal ranges, instead of in a unitary way across a continuum of temporal variation. We aim to identify the temporal building blocks that underlie perception and cognition, from the perspective that these building blocks are part of the operating system of the mind/brain that is provided by neurophysiological principles.

Humans rely on the analysis of sensory input as an important source of knowledge about the world. Especially predicting the ‚when‘ of future events is crucial for successful interaction with our environment. How does the brain exploit the temporal structure of sensory information to predict upcoming events?

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For thousands of years people have admired the beauty of birdsong. But scientific understanding of this phenomenon is still restricted to studying learning and production mechanisms, as well as ecological function (how songs are used to attract mates and to defend territories). But what is it that makes a birdsong effective in attracting mates? What are the acoustic structures that are designed and able to engage a listener, and affect his or her emotional state?

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