Human Time-Frequency Acuity Beats the Fourier Uncertainty Principle

Condensed Matter journal club

Human Time-Frequency Acuity Beats the Fourier Uncertainty Principle

  • Event time: 11:30am
  • Event date: 8th February 2013
  • Speaker: Tom Underwood (Formerly School of Physics & Astronomy, University of Edinburgh)
  • Location: Room 2511,

Event details


The time-frequency uncertainty principle states that the product of the temporal and frequency extents of a signal can not be smaller than 1/4π. We study human ability to simultaneously judge the frequency and the timing of a sound. Our subjects often exceeded the uncertainty limit, sometimes by more than tenfold, mostly through remarkable timing acuity. Our results establish a lower bound for the nonlinearity and complexity of the algorithms employed by our brains in parsing transient sounds, rule out similar "linear filter" models of early auditory processing, and highlight timing acuity as a central feature in auditory object processing.
PRL 110 article 044301 (2013)
pdf version


J.N. Oppenheim, M.O. Magnasco

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