The binaural system utilizes interaural timing cues to improve the detection of auditory signals presented in noise. In humans, the binaural mechanisms underlying this phenomenon cannot be directly measured and hence remain contentious. As an alternative, we trained modified autoencoder networks to mimic human-like behavior in a binaural detection task. The autoencoder architecture emphasizes interpretability and, hence, we “opened it up” to see if it could infer latent mechanisms underlying binaural detection. We found that the optimal networks automatically developed artificial neurons with sensitivity to timing cues and with dynamics consistent with a cross-correlation mechanism. These computations were similar to neural dynamics reported in animal models. That these computations emerged to account for human hearing attests to their generality as a solution for binaural signal detection. This study examines the utility of explanatory-driven neural network models and how they may be used to infer mechanisms of audition.
Smith, S., Sollini, J., & Akeroyd, M. A. (2023). Inferring the basis of binaural detection with a modified autoencoder. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 17, Article 1000079. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2023.1000079