Search tips
Search criteria 


Logo of jarospringer.comThis journalToc AlertsSubmit OnlineOpen Choice
J Assoc Res Otolaryngol. 2002 February; 3(1): 80–88.
Published online 2001 August 31. doi:  10.1007/s101620020006
PMCID: PMC3202365

Detection of Large Interaural Delays and Its Implication for Models of Binaural Interaction


The interaural time difference (ITD) is a major cue to sound localization along the horizontal plane. The maximum natural ITD occurs when a sound source is positioned opposite to one ear. We examined the ability of owls and humans to detect large ITDs in sounds presented through headphones. Stimuli consisted of either broad or narrow bands of Gaussian noise, 100 ms in duration. Using headphones allowed presentation of ITDs that are greater than the maximum natural ITD. Owls were able to discriminate a sound leading to the left ear from one leading to the right ear, for ITDs that are 5 times the maximum natural delay. Neural recordings from optic-tectum neurons, however, show that best ITDs are usually well within the natural range and are never as large as ITDs that are behaviorally discriminable. A model of binaural cross-correlation with short delay lines is shown to explain behavioral detection of large ITDs. The model uses curved trajectories of a cross-correlation pattern as the basis for detection. These trajectories represent side peaks of neural ITD-tuning curves and successfully predict localization reversals by both owls and human subjects.

Keywords: interaural, binaural, owl, ITD

Full Text

The Full Text of this article is available as a PDF (480K).

Selected References

These references are in PubMed. This may not be the complete list of references from this article.
1. Blauert J, Cobben W. Some consideration of binaural cross-correlation analysis. Acustica. 1978;39:96–103.
2. Blodgett HC, Wilbanks WA, Jeffress LA. Effects of large interaural time differences upon the judgment of sidedness. J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 1956;28:639–643.
3. Calford MB, Moore DR, Hutchings ME. Central and peripheral contributions to coding of acoustic space by neurons in the inferior colliculus of cat. J. Neurophysiol. 1986;55:587–603. [PubMed]
4. Carr CE, Konishi M. Axonal delay-lines for time measurement in the owls brain-stem. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U S A. 1988;85:8311–8315. [PubMed]
5. Carr CE, Konishi M. A circuit for detection of interaural time differences in the brain stem of the barn owl. J. Neurosci. 1990;10:3227–3246. [PubMed]
6. Domnitz RH, Colburn HS. Lateral position and interaural discrimination. J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 1977;61:1586–1598. [PubMed]
7. Durlach NI, Colburn HS. Binaural Phenomena. In: Carterette EC, Friedman MP, editors. Handbook of Perception, Vol. 4. New York: Academic; 1978. pp. 360–466.
8. Dyson ML, Klump GM, Gauger B. Absolute hearing thresholds and critical masking ratios in the European barn owl: a comparison with other owls. J. Comp. Physiol. 1998;182:695–702. doi: 10.1007/s003590050214. [Cross Ref]
9. Feddersen WE, Sandel TT, Teas DC, Jeffress LA. Localization of high-frequency tones. J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 1957;29:988–991.
10. Fitzpatrick DC, Kuwada S, Batra R. Neural sensitivity to interaural time differences: Beyond the Jeffress model. J. Neurosci. 2000;20:1605–1615. [PubMed]
11. Green DM, Swets JA. Signal Detection Theory and Psychophysics, 1988 reprint ed. CA, Peninsula: Los Altos; 1966.
12. Jeffress LA. A Place theory of sound localization. J. Comp. Physiol. Psychol. 1948;41:35–39. [PubMed]
13. Jeffress LA. Binaural signal detection: vector theory. In: Tobias JV, editor. Foundations of Modern Auditory Theory, Vol. 2. New York: Academic; 1972. pp. 349–368.
14. Knudsen EI. Auditory properties of space-tuned units in owl's optic tectum. J. Neurophysiol. 1984;52:709–723. [PubMed]
15. Knudsen EI, Konishi M. Mechanisms of sound localization in the barn owl (Tyto alba) J. Comp. Physiol. 1979;133:13–21.
16. Köppl C. Phase locking to high frequencies in the auditory nerve and cochlear nucleus manocellularis of the barn owl, Tyto alba. J. Neurosci. 1997;17:3312–3321. [PubMed]
17. Kuhn GF. Model of the interaural differences in the azimuthal plane. J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 1977;62:157–167.
18. Mazer J (1995) Integration of Parallel Processing Streams in the Inferior Colliculus of the Barn Owl. Ph.D. Thesis, California Institute of Technology
19. Mazer J. How the owl resolves auditory coding ambiguity. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U S A. 1998;95:10932–10937. doi: 10.1073/pnas.95.18.10932. [PubMed] [Cross Ref]
19a. Middlebrooks JC. Individual differences in external-ear transfer functions reduced by scaling in frequency. J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 1999;106:1480–1492. doi: 10.1121/1.427176. [PubMed] [Cross Ref]
20. Moiseff A. Bi-coordinate sound localization by the barn owl. J. Comp. Physiol. A. 1989;164:637–644. [PubMed]
21. Moiseff A, Konishi M. Neuronal and behavioral sensitivity to binaural time differences in the owl. J. Neurosci. 1981;1:40–48. [PubMed]
22. Mossop JE, Culling JF. Lateralization of large interaural delays. J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 1998;104:1574–1579. doi: 10.1121/1.424369. [PubMed] [Cross Ref]
23. Rice OS. Mathematical analysis of random noise. In: Wax N, editor. Selected Papers on Noise and Stochastic Processes. New York: Dover; 1944. pp. 133–294.
24. Roth GL, Kochhar RK, Hind JE. Interaural time differences: Implications regarding the neurophysiology of sound localization. J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 1980;68:1643–1651. [PubMed]
25. Saberi K. Lateralization of comodulated complex waveforms. J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 1995;98:3146–3156. [PubMed]
26. Saberi K. An auditory illusion predicted from a weighted cross-correlation model of binaural interaction. Psychol. Rev. 1996;103:137–142. doi: 10.1037//0033-295X.103.1.137. [PubMed] [Cross Ref]
27. Saberi K. Modeling interaural-delay sensitivity to frequency modulation at high frequencies. J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 1998;103:2551–2564. doi: 10.1121/1.422776. [PubMed] [Cross Ref]
28. Saberi K, Farahbod H, Konishi M. How do owls localize interaurally phase-ambiguous sounds? Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U S A. 1998a;95:6465–6468. [PubMed]
29. Saberi K, Takahashi Y, Farahbod H, Konishi M. Neural bases of an auditory illusion and its elimination in owls. Nat. Neurosci. 1999;2:656–659. doi: 10.1038/10212. [PubMed] [Cross Ref]
30. Saberi K, Takahashi Y, Konishi M, Albeck Y, Arthur B, Farahbod H. Effects of interaural decorrelation on neural and behavioral detection of spatial cues. Neuron. 1998b;21:789–798. [PubMed]
31. Sayers BM, Cherry EC. Mechanism of binaural fusion in the hearing of speech. J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 1957;29:973–987.
32. Shackleton TM, Meddis R, Hewitt MJ. Across-frequency integration in model of lateralization. J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 1992;91:2276–2279.
33. Stern RM, Colburn HS. Theory of binaural interaction based on auditory-nerve data. IV. A model for subjective lateral position. J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 1978;64:127–140. [PubMed]
34. Stern RM, Zeiberg AS, Trahiotis C. Lateralization of complex binaural stimuli: a weighted-image model. J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 1988;84:156–165. [PubMed]
35. Sullivan WE, Konishi M. Segregation of stimulus phase and intensity coding in the cochlear nucleus of the barn owl. J. Neurosci. 1984;4:1787–1799. [PubMed]
36. Swets J. Signal detection and recognition by human observers. CA, Peninsula: Los Altos; 1964.
37. Yin TCT, Chan CK. Interaural time sensitivity in medial superior olive of cat. J. Neurophysiol. 1990;64:465–487. [PubMed]

Articles from JARO: Journal of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology are provided here courtesy of Association for Research in Otolaryngology