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The Springer Handbook of Auditory Research presents a series of comprehensive and synthetic reviews of the fundamental topics in modern auditory research. It is aimed at all individuals with interests in hearing research including advanced graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, and clinical investigators. The volumes will introduce new investigators to important aspects of hearing science and will help established investigators to better understand the fundamental theories and data in fields of hearing that they may not normally follow closely. Each volume is intended to present a particular topic comprehensively, and each chapter will serve as a synthetic overview and guide to the literature. As such, the chapters present neither exhaustive data reviews nor original research that has not yet appeared in peer-reviewed journals. The series focusses on topics that have developed a solid data and conceptual foundation rather than on those for which a literature is only beginning to develop. New research areas will be covered on a timely basis in the series as they begin to mature. Each volume in the series consists of five to eight substantial chapters on a particular topic. In some cases, the topics will be ones of traditional interest for which there is a solid body of data and theory, such as auditory neuroanatomy (Vol. 1) and neurophysiology (Vol. 2). Other volumes in the series will deal with topics which have begun to mature more recently, such as development, plasticity, and computational models of neural processing. In many cases, the series editors will be joined by a co-editor having special expertise in the topic of the volume.

1. Introduction A listener’s perception of the world of sound is but an abstraction of physical reality. It is determined initially by the linear acoustic transformation performed by the head, pinnae and external ear canals, followed in turn by the nonlinear mechanoelectric transduction in the bilaterally placed receptor organs of Corti and the ever changing spatio-temporal discharge patterns in ensembles of first-order afferent fibers of the auditory nerve. Within the central auditory system, which faces the acoustic world only indirectly through this filtered and fluctuating afferent input, incoming information encoded in trains of all-or-none action potentials is received, transformed, and then redistributed over parallel pathways to higher centers in the brain. Sound perception involves a number of central auditory mechanisms operating in concert, and these mechanisms form recurrent themes that run through the chapters that follow. They include sensory coding, temporal and spatial transformation, divergent and convergent projection, parallel and serial processing, localization of function and neuronal plasticity. These themes are related to hearing in ways still not fully understood, although all of them have been thought about, discussed, and studied in one form or another for a century or more. Many of the earliest studies of auditory system function were relatively primitive by today’s standards, but even with the limited experimental and analytical tools available at the time they provided a framework upon which much of today’s auditory research is based. Physician scientists who studied the nervous system during the latter part of the nineteenth century took a keen interest in central hearing and speech mechanisms. Broca’s paper of 1861 which described the deleterious effects on speech production caused by cortical damage of one of his patients, along with more thorough analyses of brain trauma by Broca (1865) and Wernicke (1874), had major impact on the ideas oflocalization of cerebral function and central mechanisms of speech perception and production.

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