The auditory system faithfully represents sufficient details from sound sources such that downstream cognitive processes are capable of acting upon this information effectively even in the face of signal uncertainty, degradation or interference. This robust sound source representation leads to an invariance in perception vital for animals to interact effectively with their environment. Due to unique nonlinearities in the cochlea, sound representations early in the auditory system exhibit a large amount of variability as a function of stimulus intensity. In other words, changes in stimulus intensity, such as for sound sources at differing distances, create a unique challenge for the auditory system to encode sounds invariantly across the intensity dimension. This challenge and some strategies available to sensory systems to eliminate intensity as an encoding variable are discussed, with a special emphasis upon sound encoding.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2064-2072
Number of pages9
JournalNeuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews
Issue number10
StatePublished - Nov 2011


  • Adaptation
  • Auditory cortex
  • Auditory system
  • Efficient coding
  • Forward masking
  • Intensity invariance
  • Perception
  • Robust sensory processing
  • Sound processing


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