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1.  Changes Across Time in Spike Rate and Spike Amplitude of Auditory Nerve Fibers Stimulated by Electric Pulse Trains 
We undertook a systematic evaluation of spike rates and spike amplitudes of auditory nerve fiber (ANF) responses to trains of electric current pulses. Measures were obtained from acutely deafened cats to examine time-related changes free from the effects of hair-cell and synaptic adaptation. Such data relate to adaptation that likely occurs in ANFs of cochlear-implant users. A major goal was to determine and compare rate adaptation observed at different pulse rates (primarily 250, 1000, and 5000 pulse/s) and describe them using decaying exponential models similar to those used in acoustic studies. Rate-vs.-time functions were best described by two-exponent models and produced time constants similar to (although slightly greater than) the “rapid” and “short-term” components described in acoustic studies. There was little dependence of these time constants on onset spike rate, but pulse-rate effects were noted. Spike amplitude changes followed a time course different from that of rate adaptation consistent with a process related to ANF interspike intervals. The fact that two time constants governed rate adaptation in electrically stimulated and deafened fibers suggests that future computational models of adaptation should not only include hair cell and synapse components, but also components determined by fiber membrane characteristics.
doi:10.1007/s10162-007-0086-7
PMCID: PMC2538432  PMID: 17562109
auditory nerve; electric stimulation; adaptation; cat; cochlear implant; single fiber
2.  Inner-Ear Morphology of the New Zealand Kiwi (Apteryx mantelli) Suggests High-Frequency Specialization 
The sensory systems of the New Zealand kiwi appear to be uniquely adapted to occupy a nocturnal ground-dwelling niche. In addition to well-developed tactile and olfactory systems, the auditory system shows specializations of the ear, which are maintained along the central nervous system. Here, we provide a detailed description of the auditory nerve, hair cells, and stereovillar bundle orientation of the hair cells in the North Island brown kiwi. The auditory nerve of the kiwi contained about 8,000 fibers. Using the number of hair cells and innervating nerve fibers to calculate a ratio of average innervation density showed that the afferent innervation ratio in kiwi was denser than in most other birds examined. The average diameters of cochlear afferent axons in kiwi showed the typical gradient across the tonotopic axis. The kiwi basilar papilla showed a clear differentiation of tall and short hair cells. The proportion of short hair cells was higher than in the emu and likely reflects a bias towards higher frequencies represented on the kiwi basilar papilla. The orientation of the stereovillar bundles in the kiwi basilar papilla showed a pattern similar to that in most other birds but was most similar to that of the emu. Overall, many features of the auditory nerve, hair cells, and stereovilli bundle orientation in the kiwi are typical of most birds examined. Some features of the kiwi auditory system do, however, support a high-frequency specialization, specifically the innervation density and generally small size of hair-cell somata, whereas others showed the presumed ancestral condition similar to that found in the emu.
doi:10.1007/s10162-012-0341-4
PMCID: PMC3441955  PMID: 22772440
hair cell; basilar papilla; auditory nerve; Paleognathae
3.  Spatial Tuning Curves Along the Chick Basilar Papilla in Normal and Sound-Exposed Ears 
Intense sound exposure destroys chick short hair cells and damages the tectorial membrane. Within a few days postexposure, signs of repair appear resulting in nearly complete structural recovery of the inner ear. Tectorial membrane repair, however, is incomplete, leaving a permanent defect on the sensory surface. The consequences of this defect on cochlear function, and particularly frequency analysis, are unclear. The present study organizes the sound-induced discharge activity of cochlear nerve units to describe the distribution of neural activity along the tonotopic axis of the basilar papilla. The distribution of this activity is compared in 12-day postexposed and age-matched control groups. Spontaneous activity, tuning curves, and rate–intensity functions were measured in each unit. Discharge activity at 60 frequency and intensity combinations was identified in the tuning curves of hundreds of units. Activity at each of these criterion frequency/intensity combinations was plotted against the unit’s characteristic frequency to construct spatial tuning curves (STCs). The STCs depict tone-driven cochlear nerve activity along the length of the papilla. Tuning sharpness, low- and high- frequency slopes, and the maximum response were quantified for each STC. The sharpness of tuning increased with increasing criterion frequency. However, within a frequency, increasing sound intensity yielded more broadly tuned STCs. Also, the high-frequency slope was consistently steeper than the low-frequency slope. The STCs of exposed ears exhibited slightly less frequency selectivity than control ears across all frequencies and larger maximum responses for STCs with criterion frequencies spanning the tectorial membrane defect. When rate–intensity types were segregated, differences were observed in the STCs between saturating and sloping-up units. We propose that STC shape may be determined by global mechanical events, as well as localized tuning and nonlinear processes associated with individual hair cells. The results indicated that 12 days after intense sound exposure, global and local contributions to spatially distributed neural activity are restored.
doi:10.1007/s10162-002-3034-6
PMCID: PMC2538400  PMID: 15357419
cochlear nerve; single nerve units; chicks; acoustic overstimulation; hair cell regeneration; tuning curves; basilar papilla
4.  Computational Diversity in the Cochlear Nucleus Angularis of the Barn Owl 
Journal of Neurophysiology  2002;89(4):2313-2329.
The cochlear nucleus angularis (NA) is widely assumed to form the starting point of a brain stem pathway for processing sound intensity in birds. Details of its function are unclear, however, and its evolutionary origin and relationship to the mammalian cochlear-nucleus complex are obscure. We have carried out extracellular single-unit recordings in the NA of ketamine-anesthetized barn owls. The aim was to re-evaluate the extent of heterogeneity in NA physiology because recent studies of cellular morphology had established several distinct types. Extensive characterization, using tuning curves, phase locking, peristimulus time histograms and rate-level functions for pure tones and noise, revealed five major response types. The most common one was a primary-like pattern that was distinguished from auditory-nerve fibers by showing lower vector strengths of phase locking and/or lower spontaneous rates. Two types of chopper responses were found (chopper-transient and a rare chopper-sustained), as well as onset units. Finally, we routinely encountered a complex response type with a pronounced inhibitory component, similar to the mammalian typeIV. Evidence is presented that this range of response types is representative for birds and that earlier conflicting reports may be due to methodological differences. All five response types defined were similar to well-known types in the mammalian cochlear nucleus. This suggests convergent evolution of neurons specialized for encoding different behaviorally relevant features of the auditory stimulus. It remains to be investigated whether the different response types correlate with morphological types and whether they establish different processing streams in the auditory brain stem of birds.
doi:10.1152/jn.00635.2002
PMCID: PMC3259745  PMID: 12612008
5.  A search for factors specifying tonotopy implicates DNER in hair-cell development in the chick’s cochlea 
Developmental biology  2011;354(2):221-231.
The accurate perception of sound frequency by vertebrates relies upon the tuning of hair cells, which are arranged along auditory organs according to frequency. This arrangement, which is termed a tonotopic gradient, results from the coordination of many cellular and extracellular features. Seeking the mechanisms that orchestrate those features and govern the tonotopic gradient, we used expression microarrays to identify genes differentially expressed between the high- and low-frequency cochlear regions of the chick (Gallus gallus). Of the three signaling systems that were represented extensively in the results, we focused on the notch pathway and particularly on DNER, a putative notch ligand, and PTPζ, a receptor phosphatase that controls DNER trafficking. Immunohistochemistry confirmed that both proteins are expressed more strongly in hair cells at the cochlear apex than in those at the base. At the apical surface of each hair cell, the proteins display polarized, mutually exclusive localization patterns. Using morpholinos to decrease the expression of DNER or PTPζ as well as a retroviral vector to overexpress DNER, we observed disturbances of hair-bundle morphology and orientation. Our results suggest a role for DNER and PTPζ in hair-cell development and possibly in the specification of tonotopy.
doi:10.1016/j.ydbio.2011.03.031
PMCID: PMC3137886  PMID: 21497156
auditory system; hair bundle; planar cell polarity; signaling
6.  Relationship between auditory thresholds, central spontaneous activity and hair cell loss after acoustic trauma 
The Journal of comparative neurology  2011;519(13):2637-2647.
Acoustic trauma caused by exposure to a very loud sound increases spontaneous activity in central auditory structures such as the inferior colliculus. This hyperactivity has been suggested as a neural substrate for tinnitus, a phantom hearing sensation. In previous studies we have described a tentative link between the frequency region of hearing impairment and the corresponding tonotopic regions in the inferior colliculus showing hyperactivity. In this study we further investigated the relationship between cochlear compound action potential threshold loss, cochlear outer and inner hair cell loss and central hyperactivity in inferior colliculus of guinea pigs. Two weeks after a 10 kHz pure tone acoustic trauma, a tight relationship was demonstrated between the frequency region of compound action potential threshold loss and frequency regions in the inferior colliculus showing hyperactivity. Extending the duration of the acoustic trauma from 1 to 2 h did not result in significant increases in final cochlear threshold loss, but did result in a further increase of spontaneous firing rates in the inferior colliculus. Interestingly, hair cell loss was not present in the frequency regions where elevated cochlear thresholds and central hyperactivity were measured, suggesting that subtle changes in hair cell or primary afferent neural function are sufficient for central hyperactivity to be triggered and maintained.
doi:10.1002/cne.22644
PMCID: PMC3140598  PMID: 21491427
tinnitus; inferior colliculus; guinea pig; cochleogram; compound action potential
7.  Auditory Cortical Images of Tones and Noise Bands 
We examined the representation of stimulus center frequencies by the distribution of cortical activity. Recordings were made from the primary auditory cortex (area A1) of ketamine-anesthetized guinea pigs. Cortical images of tones and noise bands were visualized as the simultaneously recorded spike activity of neurons at 16 sites along the tonotopic gradient of cortical frequency representation. The cortical image of a pure tone showed a restricted focus of activity along the tonotopic gradient. As the stimulus frequency was increased, the location of the activation focus shifted from rostral to caudal. When cochlear activation was broadened by increasing the stimulus level or bandwidth, the cortical image broadened. An artificial neural network algorithm was used to quantify the accuracy of center-frequency representation by small populations of cortical neurons. The artificial neural network identified stimulus center frequency based on single-trial spike counts at as few as ten sites. The performance of the artificial neural network under various conditions of stimulus level and bandwidth suggests that the accuracy of representation of center frequency is largely insensitive to changes in the width of cortical images.
doi:10.1007/s101620010036
PMCID: PMC2504540  PMID: 11545145
auditory cortex; guinea pig; tonotopy; neural ensembles; functional imaging
8.  Frequency discrimination and stimulus deviance in the inferior colliculus and cochlear nucleus 
Auditory neurons that exhibit stimulus-specific adaptation (SSA) decrease their response to common tones while retaining responsiveness to rare ones. We recorded single-unit responses from the inferior colliculus (IC) where SSA is known to occur and we explored for the first time SSA in the cochlear nucleus (CN) of rats. We assessed an important functional outcome of SSA, the extent to which frequency discriminability depends on sensory context. For this purpose, pure tones were presented in an oddball sequence as standard (high probability of occurrence) or deviant (low probability of occurrence) stimuli. To study frequency discriminability under different probability contexts, we varied the probability of occurrence and the frequency separation between tones. The neuronal sensitivity was estimated in terms of spike-count probability using signal detection theory. We reproduced the finding that many neurons in the IC exhibited SSA, but we did not observe significant SSA in our CN sample. We concluded that strong SSA is not a ubiquitous phenomenon in the CN. As predicted, frequency discriminability was enhanced in IC when stimuli were presented in an oddball context, and this enhancement was correlated with the degree of SSA shown by the neurons. In contrast, frequency discrimination by CN neurons was independent of stimulus context. Our results demonstrated that SSA is not widespread along the entire auditory pathway, and suggest that SSA increases frequency discriminability of single neurons beyond that expected from their tuning curves.
doi:10.3389/fncir.2012.00119
PMCID: PMC3544151  PMID: 23335885
SSA; deviant sensitivity; change detection; mismatch negativity; non-lemniscal pathway; ROC analysis
9.  Response Characteristics in the Apex of the Gerbil Cochlea Studied Through Auditory Nerve Recordings 
In this study, we analyze the processing of low-frequency sounds in the cochlear apex through responses of auditory nerve fibers (ANFs) that innervate the apex. Single tones and irregularly spaced tone complexes were used to evoke ANF responses in Mongolian gerbil. The spike arrival times were analyzed in terms of phase locking, peripheral frequency selectivity, group delays, and the nonlinear effects of sound pressure level (SPL). Phase locking to single tones was similar to that in cat. Vector strength was maximal for stimulus frequencies around 500 Hz, decreased above 1 kHz, and became insignificant above 4 to 5 kHz. We used the responses to tone complexes to determine amplitude and phase curves of ANFs having a characteristic frequency (CF) below 5 kHz. With increasing CF, amplitude curves gradually changed from broadly tuned and asymmetric with a steep low-frequency flank to more sharply tuned and asymmetric with a steep high-frequency flank. Over the same CF range, phase curves gradually changed from a concave-upward shape to a concave-downward shape. Phase curves consisted of two or three approximately straight segments. Group delay was analyzed separately for these segments. Generally, the largest group delay was observed near CF. With increasing SPL, most amplitude curves broadened, sometimes accompanied by a downward shift of best frequency, and group delay changed along the entire range of stimulus frequencies. We observed considerable across-ANF variation in the effects of SPL on both amplitude and phase. Overall, our data suggest that mechanical responses in the apex of the cochlea are considerably nonlinear and that these nonlinearities are of a different character than those known from the base of the cochlea.
doi:10.1007/s10162-010-0255-y
PMCID: PMC3085685  PMID: 21213012
cochlear mechanics; cochlear apex; phase locking; Meriones unguiculatus
10.  Response Characteristics in the Apex of the Gerbil Cochlea Studied Through Auditory Nerve Recordings 
In this study, we analyze the processing of low-frequency sounds in the cochlear apex through responses of auditory nerve fibers (ANFs) that innervate the apex. Single tones and irregularly spaced tone complexes were used to evoke ANF responses in Mongolian gerbil. The spike arrival times were analyzed in terms of phase locking, peripheral frequency selectivity, group delays, and the nonlinear effects of sound pressure level (SPL). Phase locking to single tones was similar to that in cat. Vector strength was maximal for stimulus frequencies around 500 Hz, decreased above 1 kHz, and became insignificant above 4 to 5 kHz. We used the responses to tone complexes to determine amplitude and phase curves of ANFs having a characteristic frequency (CF) below 5 kHz. With increasing CF, amplitude curves gradually changed from broadly tuned and asymmetric with a steep low-frequency flank to more sharply tuned and asymmetric with a steep high-frequency flank. Over the same CF range, phase curves gradually changed from a concave-upward shape to a concave-downward shape. Phase curves consisted of two or three approximately straight segments. Group delay was analyzed separately for these segments. Generally, the largest group delay was observed near CF. With increasing SPL, most amplitude curves broadened, sometimes accompanied by a downward shift of best frequency, and group delay changed along the entire range of stimulus frequencies. We observed considerable across-ANF variation in the effects of SPL on both amplitude and phase. Overall, our data suggest that mechanical responses in the apex of the cochlea are considerably nonlinear and that these nonlinearities are of a different character than those known from the base of the cochlea.
doi:10.1007/s10162-010-0255-y
PMCID: PMC3085685  PMID: 21213012
cochlear mechanics; cochlear apex; phase locking; Meriones unguiculatus
11.  The role of auditory nerve innervation and dendritic filtering in shaping onset responses in the ventral cochlear nucleus 
Brain Research  2009;1247(C):221-234.
Neurons in the ventral cochlear nucleus (VCN) that respond primarily at the onset of a pure tone stimulus show diversity in terms of peri-stimulus-time-histograms (PSTHs), rate-level functions, frequency tuning, and also their responses to broad band noise. A number of different mechanisms have been proposed as contributing to the onset characteristic: e.g. coincidence, depolarisation block, and low-threshold potassium currents. We show that a simple point neuron receiving convergent inputs from high-spontaneous rate auditory nerve (AN) fibers, with no special currents and no peri-stimulatory shifts in firing threshold, is sufficient to produce much of the diversity seen experimentally. Three sub-classes of onset PSTHs: onset-ideal (OI), onset-chopper (OC) and onset-locker (OL) are reproduced by variations in innervation patterns and dendritic filtering. The factors shaping responses were explored by systematically varying key parameters. An OI response in this model requires a narrow range of AN input best frequencies (BF) which only produce supra-threshold depolarizations during the stimulus onset. For OC and OL responses, receptive fields were wider. Considerable low pass filtering of AN inputs away from BF results in an OL, whilst relatively unfiltered inputs produce an OC response. Rate-level functions in response to pure tones can be sloping, or plateau. These can be also reproduced in the model by the manipulation of the AN innervation. The model supports the coincidence detection hypothesis, and suggests that differences in excitatory innervation and dendritic filtering constant are important factors to consider when accounting for the variation in response characteristics seen in VCN onset units.
doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2008.09.054
PMCID: PMC2653631  PMID: 18848923
Onset; Stellate; Cochlear nucleus; Point-neuron; PSTH; Rate-level functions
12.  Evaluating Adaptation and Olivocochlear Efferent Feedback as Potential Explanations of Psychophysical Overshoot 
Masked detection threshold for a short tone in noise improves as the tone’s onset is delayed from the masker’s onset. This improvement, known as “overshoot,” is maximal at mid-masker levels and is reduced by temporary and permanent cochlear hearing loss. Computational modeling was used in the present study to evaluate proposed physiological mechanisms of overshoot, including classic firing rate adaptation and medial olivocochlear (MOC) feedback, for both normal hearing and cochlear hearing loss conditions. These theories were tested using an established model of the auditory periphery and signal detection theory techniques. The influence of several analysis variables on predicted tone-pip detection in broadband noise was evaluated, including: auditory nerve fiber spontaneous-rate (SR) pooling, range of characteristic frequencies, number of synapses per characteristic frequency, analysis window duration, and detection rule. The results revealed that overshoot similar to perceptual data in terms of both magnitude and level dependence could be predicted when the effects of MOC efferent feedback were included in the auditory nerve model. Conversely, simulations without MOC feedback effects never produced overshoot despite the model’s ability to account for classic firing rate adaptation and dynamic range adaptation in auditory nerve responses. Cochlear hearing loss was predicted to reduce the size of overshoot only for model versions that included the effects of MOC efferent feedback. These findings suggest that overshoot in normal and hearing-impaired listeners is mediated by some form of dynamic range adaptation other than what is observed in the auditory nerve of anesthetized animals. Mechanisms for this adaptation may occur at several levels along the auditory pathway. Among these mechanisms, the MOC reflex may play a leading role.
doi:10.1007/s10162-011-0256-5
PMCID: PMC3085687  PMID: 21267622
auditory masking; temporal aspects of masking; auditory detection; psychophysical overshoot; computational modeling; adaptation; medial olivocochlear efferents; dynamic range adaptation; hearing impairment; auditory nerve; basilar membrane compression
13.  COCHLEAR IMPLANT ELECTRODE CONFIGURATION EFFECTS ON ACTIVATION THRESHOLD AND TONOTOPIC SELECTIVITY 
Hearing research  2007;235(1-2):23-38.
The multichannel design of contemporary cochlear implants (CIs) is predicated on the assumption that each channel activates a relatively restricted and independent sector of the deaf auditory nerve array, just as a sound within a restricted frequency band activates a restricted region of the normal cochlea The independence of CI channels, however, is limited; and the factors that determine their independence, the relative overlap of the activity patterns that they evoke, are poorly understood. In this study, we evaluate the spread of activity evoked by cochlear implant channels by monitoring activity at 16 sites along the tonotopic axis of the guinea pig inferior colliculus (IC). “Spatial tuning curves” (STCs) measured in this way serve as an estimate of activation spread within the cochlea and the ascending auditory pathways. We contrast natural stimulation using acoustic tones with two kinds of electrical stimulation either (1) a loose fitting banded array consisting of a cylindrical silicone elastomer carrier with a linear series of ring contacts; or (2) a space-filling array consisting of a tapered silicone elastomer carrier that is designed to fit snugly into the guinea pig scala tympani with a linear series of ball contacts positioned along it Spatial tuning curves evoked by individual acoustic tones, and by activation of each contact of each array as a monopole, bipole or tripole were recorded. Several channel configurations and a wide range of electrode separations were tested for each array, and their thresholds and selectivity were estimated.
The results indicate that the tapered space-filling arrays evoked more restricted activity patterns at lower thresholds than did the banded arrays. Monopolar stimulation (one intracochlear contact activated with an extracochlear return) using either array evoked broad activation patterns that involved the entire recording array at current levels < 6dB SL, but at relatively low thresholds. Bi- and tripolar configurations of both array types evoked more restricted activity patterns, but their thresholds were higher than those of monopolar configurations. Bipolar and tripolar configurations with closely spaced contacts evoked activity patterns that were comparable to those evoked by pure tones. As the spacing of bipolar electrodes was increased (separations > 1 mm), the activity patterns became broader and evoked patterns with two distinct threshold minima, one associated with each contact.
doi:10.1016/j.heares.2007.09.013
PMCID: PMC2387102  PMID: 18037252
Cochlear implant; cochlear prosthesis; deafness; auditory nervous system; multichannel recording; auditory prosthesis; inferior colliculus
14.  Intraoperative Round Window Recordings to Acoustic Stimuli From Cochlear Implant Patients 
Hypothesis
Acoustically evoked neural and hair cell potentials can be measured from the round window (RW) intraoperatively in the general population of cochlear implant recipients.
Background
Cochlear implant performance varies greatly among patients. Improved methods to assess and monitor functional hair cell and neural substrate prior to and during implantation could potentially aid in enhanced non-traumatic intracochlear electrode placement and subsequent improved outcomes.
Methods
Subjects (1–80 years) undergoing cochlear implantation were included. A monopolar probe was placed at the RW after surgical access was obtained. The cochlear microphonic (CM), summating potential (SP), compound action potential (CAP), and auditory nerve neurophonic (ANN) were recorded in response to tone bursts at frequencies of 0.25 – 4 kHz at various levels.
Results
Measurable hair cell/neural potentials were detected to one or more frequencies in 23 of 25 subjects. The greatest proportion and magnitude of cochlear responses were to low frequencies (<1000 Hz). At these low frequencies the ANN, when present, contributed to the ongoing response at the stimulus frequency. In many subjects the ANN was small or absent while hair cell responses remained.
Conclusions
In cochlear implant recipients, acoustically evoked cochlear potentials are detectable even if hearing is extremely limited. Sensitive measures of cochlear and neural status can characterize the state of hair cell and neural function prior to implantation. Whether this information correlates with speech performance outcomes, or can help in tailoring electrode type, placement or audiometric fitting, can be determined in future studies.
doi:10.1097/MAO.0b013e31826dbc80
PMCID: PMC3632009  PMID: 23047261
Cochlear Implant; Cochlear Electrophysiology; Hearing Preservation; Electrocochleography; Intraoperative monitoring; Auditory Nerve Neurophonic; Cochlear Microphonic
15.  Classification of unit types in the anteroventral cochlear nucleus of laboratory mice 
Hearing Research  2012;289(1-2):13-26.
This report introduces a system for the objective physiological classification of single-unit activity in the anteroventral cochlear nucleus (AVCN) of anesthetized CBA/129 and CBA/CaJ mice. As in previous studies, the decision criteria are based on the temporal properties of responses to short tone bursts that are visualized in the form of peri-stimulus time histograms (PSTHs). Individual unit types are defined by the statistical distribution of quantifiable metrics that relate to the onset latency, regularity, and adaptation of sound-driven discharge rates. Variations of these properties reflect the unique synaptic organizations and intrinsic membrane properties that dictate the selective tuning of sound coding in the AVCN. When these metrics are applied to the mouse AVCN, responses to best frequency (BF) tones reproduce the major PSTH patterns that have been previously demonstrated in other mammalian species. The consistency of response types in two genetically diverse strains of laboratory mice suggests that the present classification system is appropriate for additional strains with normal peripheral function. The general agreement of present findings to established classifications validates laboratory mice as an adequate model for general principles of mammalian sound coding. Nevertheless, important differences are noted for the reliability of specialized endbulb transmission within the AVCN, suggesting less secure temporal coding in this high-frequency species.
doi:10.1016/j.heares.2012.04.019
PMCID: PMC3371138  PMID: 22579638
peri-stimulus time histograms; onset latency; regularity analysis; prepotential; rate adaptation
16.  Effects of reverberation on the directional sensitivity of auditory neurons across the tonotopic axis: Influences of ITD and ILD 
In reverberant environments, acoustic reflections interfere with the direct sound arriving at a listener’s ears, distorting the binaural cues for sound localization. We investigated the effects of reverberation on the directional sensitivity of single neurons in the inferior colliculus (IC) of unanesthetized rabbits. We find that reverberation degrades the directional sensitivity of single neurons, although the amount of degradation depends on the characteristic frequency (CF) and the type of binaural cues available. When interaural time differences (ITD) are the only available directional cue, low-CF cells sensitive to ITD in the waveform fine time structure maintain better directional sensitivity in reverberation than high-CF cells sensitive to ITD in the envelope induced by cochlear filtering. On the other hand, when both ITD and interaural level difference (ILD) cues are available, directional sensitivity in reverberation is comparable throughout the tonotopic axis of the IC. This result suggests that, at high frequencies, ILDs provide better directional information than envelope ITDs, emphasizing the importance of the ILD-processing pathway for sound localization in reverberation.
doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5517-09.2010
PMCID: PMC2896784  PMID: 20534831
directional sensitivity; interaural level difference; inferior colliculus; interaural time difference; reverberation; sound localization
17.  A hardware model of the auditory periphery to transduce acoustic signals into neural activity 
To improve the performance of cochlear implants, we have integrated a microdevice into a model of the auditory periphery with the goal of creating a microprocessor. We constructed an artificial peripheral auditory system using a hybrid model in which polyvinylidene difluoride was used as a piezoelectric sensor to convert mechanical stimuli into electric signals. To produce frequency selectivity, the slit on a stainless steel base plate was designed such that the local resonance frequency of the membrane over the slit reflected the transfer function. In the acoustic sensor, electric signals were generated based on the piezoelectric effect from local stress in the membrane. The electrodes on the resonating plate produced relatively large electric output signals. The signals were fed into a computer model that mimicked some functions of inner hair cells, inner hair cell–auditory nerve synapses, and auditory nerve fibers. In general, the responses of the model to pure-tone burst and complex stimuli accurately represented the discharge rates of high-spontaneous-rate auditory nerve fibers across a range of frequencies greater than 1 kHz and middle to high sound pressure levels. Thus, the model provides a tool to understand information processing in the peripheral auditory system and a basic design for connecting artificial acoustic sensors to the peripheral auditory nervous system. Finally, we discuss the need for stimulus control with an appropriate model of the auditory periphery based on auditory brainstem responses that were electrically evoked by different temporal pulse patterns with the same pulse number.
doi:10.3389/fneng.2013.00012
PMCID: PMC3840400  PMID: 24324432
acoustic sensor; computer model; digital signal processor; piezoelectric film; electrically evoked auditory brainstem response
18.  Developmental changes in the cochlear hair cell mechanotransducer channel and their regulation by transmembrane channel–like proteins 
The Journal of General Physiology  2013;141(1):141-148.
Vibration of the stereociliary bundles activates calcium-permeable mechanotransducer (MT) channels to initiate sound detection in cochlear hair cells. Different regions of the cochlea respond preferentially to different acoustic frequencies, with variation in the unitary conductance of the MT channels contributing to this tonotopic organization. Although the molecular identity of the MT channel remains uncertain, two members of the transmembrane channel–like family, Tmc1 and Tmc2, are crucial to hair cell mechanotransduction. We measured MT channel current amplitude and Ca2+ permeability along the cochlea’s longitudinal (tonotopic) axis during postnatal development of wild-type mice and mice lacking Tmc1 (Tmc1−/−) or Tmc2 (Tmc2−/−). In wild-type mice older than postnatal day (P) 4, MT current amplitude increased ∼1.5-fold from cochlear apex to base in outer hair cells (OHCs) but showed little change in inner hair cells (IHCs), a pattern apparent in mutant mice during the first postnatal week. After P7, the OHC MT current in Tmc1−/− (dn) mice declined to zero, consistent with their deafness phenotype. In wild-type mice before P6, the relative Ca2+ permeability, PCa, of the OHC MT channel decreased from cochlear apex to base. This gradient in PCa was not apparent in IHCs and disappeared after P7 in OHCs. In Tmc1−/− mice, PCa in basal OHCs was larger than that in wild-type mice (to equal that of apical OHCs), whereas in Tmc2−/−, PCa in apical and basal OHCs and IHCs was decreased compared with that in wild-type mice. We postulate that differences in Ca2+ permeability reflect different subunit compositions of the MT channel determined by expression of Tmc1 and Tmc2, with the latter conferring higher PCa in IHCs and immature apical OHCs. Changes in PCa with maturation are consistent with a developmental decrease in abundance of Tmc2 in OHCs but not in IHCs.
doi:10.1085/jgp.201210913
PMCID: PMC3536526  PMID: 23277480
19.  Variation in the Phase of Response to Low-Frequency Pure Tones in the Guinea Pig Auditory Nerve as Functions of Stimulus Level and Frequency 
The directionality of hair cell stimulation combined with the vibration of the basilar membrane causes the auditory nerve fiber action potentials, in response to low-frequency stimuli, to occur at a particular phase of the stimulus waveform. Because direct mechanical measurements at the cochlear apex are difficult, such phase locking has often been used to indirectly infer the basilar membrane motion. Here, we confirm and extend earlier data from mammals using sine wave stimulation over a wide range of sound levels (up to 90 dB sound pressure level). We recorded phase-locked responses to pure tones over a wide range of frequencies and sound levels of a large population of auditory nerve fibers in the anesthetized guinea pig. The results indicate that, for a constant frequency of stimulation, the phase lag decreases with increases in the characteristic frequency (CF) of the nerve fiber. The phase lag decreases up to a CF above the stimulation frequency, beyond which it decreases at a much slower rate. Such phase changes are consistent with known basal cochlear mechanics. Measurements from individual fibers showed smaller but systematic variations in phase with sound level, confirming previous reports. We found a “null” stimulation frequency at which little variation in phase occurred with sound level. This null frequency was often not at the CF. At stimulation frequencies below the null, there was a progressive lag with sound level and a progressive lead for stimulation frequencies above the null. This was maximally 0.2 cycles.
doi:10.1007/s10162-008-0151-x
PMCID: PMC2674197  PMID: 19093151
auditory nerve; phase response; basilar membrane; guinea pig
20.  Somatic motility and hair bundle mechanics, are both necessary for cochlear amplification? 
Hearing research  2010;273(1-2):109-122.
Hearing organs have evolved to detect sounds across several orders of magnitude of both intensity and frequency. Detection limits are at the atomic level despite the energy associated with sound being limited thermodynamically. Several mechanisms have evolved to account for the remarkable frequency selectivity, dynamic range, and sensitivity of these various hearing organs, together termed the active process or cochlear amplifier. Similarities between hearing organs of disparate species provides insight into the factors driving the development of the cochlear amplifier. These properties include: a tonotopic map, the emergence of a two hair cell system, the separation of efferent and afferent innervations, the role of the tectorial membrane, and the shift from intrinsic tuning and amplification to a more end organ driven process. Two major contributors to the active process are hair bundle mechanics and outer hair cell electromotility, the former present in all hair cell organs tested, the latter only present in mammalian cochlear outer hair cells. Both of these processes have advantages and disadvantages, and how these processes interact to generate the active process in the mammalian system is highly disputed. A hypothesis is put forth suggesting that hair bundle mechanics provides amplification and filtering in most hair cells, while in mammalian cochlea, outer hair cell motility provides the amplification on a cycle by cycle basis driven by the hair bundle that provides frequency selectivity (in concert with the tectorial membrane) and compressive nonlinearity. Separating components of the active process may provide additional sites for regulation of this process.
doi:10.1016/j.heares.2010.03.094
PMCID: PMC2943979  PMID: 20430075
cochlea; active process; somatic motility; hair bundle; adaptation; auditory
21.  Basilar membrane responses to two-tone and broadband stimuli 
SUMMARY
The responses to sound of mammalian cochlear neurons exhibit many nonlinearities, some of which (such as two-tone rate suppression and intermodulation distortion) are highly frequency specific, being strongly tuned to the characteristic frequency (cf) of the neuron. With the goal of establishing the cochlear origin of these auditory-nerve nonlinearities, mechanical responses to clicks and to pairs of tones were studied in relatively healthy chinchilla cochleae at a basal site of the basilar membrane with cf of 8–10 kHz. Responses were also obtained in cochleae in which hair cell receptor potentials were reduced by systemic furosemide injection. Vibrations were recorded using either the Mössbauer technique or laser Doppler-shift velocimetry. Responses to tone pairs contained intermodulation distortion products whose magnitudes as a function of stimulus frequency and intensity were comparable to those of distortion products in cochlear afferent responses. Responses to cf tones could be selectively suppressed by tones with frequency either higher or lower than cf; in most respects, mechanical two-tone suppression resembled rate suppression in cochlear afferents. Responses to clicks displayed a cf-specific compressive nonlinearity, similar to that present in responses to single tones, which could be profoundly and selectively reduced by furosemide. The present findings firmly support the hypothesis that all cf-specific nonlinearities present in the auditory nerve originate in analogous phenomena of basilar membrane vibration. However, because of their lability, it is almost certain that the mechanical nonlinearities themselves originate in outer hair cells.
doi:10.1098/rstb.1992.0063
PMCID: PMC3578387  PMID: 1354369
22.  Pitch Comparisons between Electrical Stimulation of a Cochlear Implant and Acoustic Stimuli Presented to a Normal-hearing Contralateral Ear 
Four cochlear implant users, having normal hearing in the unimplanted ear, compared the pitches of electrical and acoustic stimuli presented to the two ears. Comparisons were between 1,031-pps pulse trains and pure tones or between 12 and 25-pps electric pulse trains and bandpass-filtered acoustic pulse trains of the same rate. Three methods—pitch adjustment, constant stimuli, and interleaved adaptive procedures—were used. For all methods, we showed that the results can be strongly influenced by non-sensory biases arising from the range of acoustic stimuli presented, and proposed a series of checks that should be made to alert the experimenter to those biases. We then showed that the results of comparisons that survived these checks do not deviate consistently from the predictions of a widely-used cochlear frequency-to-place formula or of a computational cochlear model. We also demonstrate that substantial range effects occur with other widely used experimental methods, even for normal-hearing listeners.
doi:10.1007/s10162-010-0222-7
PMCID: PMC2975889  PMID: 20526727
cochlear implants; pitch
23.  Pitch Comparisons between Electrical Stimulation of a Cochlear Implant and Acoustic Stimuli Presented to a Normal-hearing Contralateral Ear 
Four cochlear implant users, having normal hearing in the unimplanted ear, compared the pitches of electrical and acoustic stimuli presented to the two ears. Comparisons were between 1,031-pps pulse trains and pure tones or between 12 and 25-pps electric pulse trains and bandpass-filtered acoustic pulse trains of the same rate. Three methods—pitch adjustment, constant stimuli, and interleaved adaptive procedures—were used. For all methods, we showed that the results can be strongly influenced by non-sensory biases arising from the range of acoustic stimuli presented, and proposed a series of checks that should be made to alert the experimenter to those biases. We then showed that the results of comparisons that survived these checks do not deviate consistently from the predictions of a widely-used cochlear frequency-to-place formula or of a computational cochlear model. We also demonstrate that substantial range effects occur with other widely used experimental methods, even for normal-hearing listeners.
doi:10.1007/s10162-010-0222-7
PMCID: PMC2975889  PMID: 20526727
cochlear implants; pitch
24.  A Role for Short-Term Synaptic Facilitation and Depression in the Processing of Intensity Information in the Auditory Brain Stem 
Journal of Neurophysiology  2007;97(4):2863-2874.
The nature of the synaptic connection from the auditory nerve onto the cochlear nucleus neurons has a profound impact on how sound information is transmitted. Short-term synaptic plasticity, by dynamically modulating synaptic strength, filters information contained in the firing patterns. In the sound-localization circuits of the brain stem, the synapses of the timing pathway are characterized by strong short-term depression. We investigated the short-term synaptic plasticity of the inputs to the bird’s cochlear nucleus angularis (NA), which encodes intensity information, by using chick embryonic brain slices and trains of electrical stimulation. These excitatory inputs expressed a mixture of short-term facilitation and depression, unlike those in the timing nuclei that only depressed. Facilitation and depression at NA synapses were balanced such that postsynaptic response amplitude was often maintained throughout the train at high firing rates (>100 Hz). The steady-state input rate relationship of the balanced synapses linearly conveyed rate information and therefore transmits intensity information encoded as a rate code in the nerve. A quantitative model of synaptic transmission could account for the plasticity by including facilitation of release (with a time constant of ~40 ms), and a two-step recovery from depression (with one slow time constant of ~8 s, and one fast time constant of ~20 ms). A simulation using the model fit to NA synapses and auditory nerve spike trains from recordings in vivo confirmed that these synapses can convey intensity information contained in natural train inputs.
doi:10.1152/jn.01030.2006
PMCID: PMC3268177  PMID: 17251365
25.  Developmental expression of BK channels in chick cochlear hair cells 
Background
Cochlear hair cells are high-frequency sensory receptors. At the onset of hearing, hair cells acquire fast, calcium-activated potassium (BK) currents, turning immature spiking cells into functional receptors. In non-mammalian vertebrates, the number and kinetics of BK channels are varied systematically along the frequency-axis of the cochlea giving rise to an intrinsic electrical tuning mechanism. The processes that control the appearance and heterogeneity of hair cell BK currents remain unclear.
Results
Quantitative PCR results showed a non-monotonic increase in BK α subunit expression throughout embryonic development of the chick auditory organ (i.e. basilar papilla). Expression peaked near embryonic day (E) 19 with six times the transcript level of E11 sensory epithelia. The steady increase in gene expression from E11 to E19 could not explain the sudden acquisition of currents at E18-19, implicating post-transcriptional mechanisms. Protein expression also preceded function but progressed in a sequence from diffuse cytoplasmic staining at early ages to punctate membrane-bound clusters at E18. Electrophysiology data confirmed a continued refinement of BK trafficking from E18 to E20, indicating a translocation of BK clusters from supranuclear to subnuclear domains over this critical developmental age.
Conclusions
Gene products encoding BK α subunits are detected up to 8 days before the acquisition of anti-BK clusters and functional BK currents. Therefore, post-transcriptional mechanisms seem to play a key role in the delayed emergence of calcium-sensitive currents. We suggest that regulation of translation and trafficking of functional α subunits, near voltage-gated calcium channels, leads to functional BK currents at the onset of hearing.
doi:10.1186/1471-213X-9-67
PMCID: PMC2803478  PMID: 20003519

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