The sequence of neurophysiological processes elicited in the auditory system by a sound is analyzed in search of the stage at which the processes carrying sensory information cross the borderline beyond which they directly underlie sound perception. Neurophysiological data suggest that this transition occurs when the sensory input is mapped onto the physiological basis of sensory memory in the auditory cortex. At this point, the sensory information carried by the stimulus-elicited process corresponds, for the first time, to that contained by the actual sound percept. Before this stage, the sensory stimulus code is fragmentary, lacks the time dimension, cannot enter conscious perception, and is not accessible to top-down processes (voluntary mental operations). On these grounds, 2 distinct stages of auditory sensory processing, prerepresentational and representational, can be distinguished.
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