The concept of hierarchical processing—that the sensory world is broken down into basic features later integrated into more complex stimulus preferences—originated from investigations of the visual cortex. Recent studies of the auditory cortex in nonhuman primates revealed a comparable architecture, in which core areas, receiving direct input from the thalamus, in turn, provide input to a surrounding belt. Here functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) shows that the human auditory cortex displays a similar hierarchical organization: pure tones (PTs) activate primarily the core, whereas belt areas prefer complex sounds, such as narrow-band noise bursts.

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