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1.  Envelope Enhancement Increases Cortical Sensitivity to Interaural Envelope Delays with Acoustic and Electric Hearing 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(8):e104097.
Evidence from human psychophysical and animal electrophysiological studies suggests that sensitivity to interaural time delay (ITD) in the modulating envelope of a high-frequency carrier can be enhanced using half-wave rectified stimuli. Recent evidence has shown potential benefits of equivalent electrical stimuli to deaf individuals with bilateral cochlear implants (CIs). In the current study we assessed the effects of envelope shape on ITD sensitivity in the primary auditory cortex of normal-hearing ferrets, and profoundly-deaf animals with bilateral CIs. In normal-hearing animals, cortical sensitivity to ITDs (±1 ms in 0.1-ms steps) was assessed in response to dichotically-presented i) sinusoidal amplitude-modulated (SAM) and ii) half-wave rectified (HWR) tones (100-ms duration; 70 dB SPL) presented at the best-frequency of the unit over a range of modulation frequencies. In separate experiments, adult ferrets were deafened with neomycin administration and bilaterally-implanted with intra-cochlear electrode arrays. Electrically-evoked auditory brainstem responses (EABRs) were recorded in response to bipolar electrical stimulation of the apical pair of electrodes with singe biphasic current pulses (40 µs per phase) over a range of current levels to measure hearing thresholds. Subsequently, we recorded cortical sensitivity to ITDs (±800 µs in 80-µs steps) within the envelope of SAM and HWR biphasic-pulse trains (40 µs per phase; 6000 pulses per second, 100-ms duration) over a range of modulation frequencies. In normal-hearing animals, nearly a third of cortical neurons were sensitive to envelope-ITDs in response to SAM tones. In deaf animals with bilateral CI, the proportion of ITD-sensitive cortical neurons was approximately a fifth in response to SAM pulse trains. In normal-hearing and deaf animals with bilateral CI the proportion of ITD sensitive units and neural sensitivity to ITDs increased in response to HWR, compared with SAM stimuli. Consequently, novel stimulation strategies based on envelope enhancement may prove beneficial to individuals with bilateral cochlear implants.
PMCID: PMC4122409  PMID: 25093417
2.  Discrimination of interaural temporal disparities conveyed by high-frequency sinusoidally amplitude-modulated tones and high-frequency transposed tones: Effects of spectrally-flanking noises 
Dreyer and Oxenham (2008) reported that spectrally-flanking noise increased threshold-ITDs conveyed by high-frequency transposed tones but rendered them indiscriminable when they were conveyed by high-frequency sinusoidally amplitude-modulated (SAM) tones [Dreyer and Oxenham, J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 123, EL1-EL7 (2008)]. This study extends those observations and evaluates the role of “off-frequency listening.” Threshold-ITDs were measured using 4 kHz-centered transposed or SAM tonal “targets.” In “baseline” conditions, targets were presented without spectrally-flanking noise. Additionally, targets were presented along with continuous diotic broadband Gaussian noise spectrally “notched” between 3.6 and 4.4 kHz. In another condition, only the high-pass segment of the notched noise was continuously present. In the final condition, only the low-pass segment was continuously present. Results indicate: 1) relative to baseline, adding notched noise resulted in similar relative increases of threshold-ITDs for both SAM and transposed targets; 2) the presence of the high-pass segment of the notched noise resulted in greater relative increases in threshold-ITDs over those obtained in baseline conditions for SAM tones as compared to transposed tones; 3) comparisons among all of the data were consistent with the interpretation that both on-frequency and off-frequency processing of envelope-based ITDs can be disrupted by the presence of a notched noise.
PMCID: PMC2647747  PMID: 19045794
3.  Factors that account for inter-individual variability of lateralization performance revealed by correlations of performance among multiple psychoacoustical tasks 
This study explored the source of inter-listener variability in the performance of lateralization tasks based on interaural time or level differences (ITDs or ILDs) by examining correlation of performance between pairs of multiple psychoacoustical tasks. The ITD, ILD, Time, and Level tasks were intended to measure sensitivities to ITD; ILD; temporal fine structure or envelope of the stimulus encoded by the neural phase locking; and stimulus level, respectively. Stimuli in low- and high-frequency regions were tested. The low-frequency stimulus was a harmonic complex (F0 = 100 Hz) that was spectrally shaped for the frequency region around the 11th harmonic. The high frequency stimulus was a “transposed stimulus,” which was a 4-kHz tone amplitude-modulated with a half-wave rectified 125-Hz sinusoid. The task procedures were essentially the same between the low- and high-frequency stimuli. Generally, the thresholds for pairs of ITD and ILD tasks, across cues or frequencies, exhibited significant positive correlations, suggesting a common mechanism across cues and frequencies underlying the lateralization tasks. For the high frequency stimulus, there was a significant positive correlation of performance between the ITD and Time tasks. A significant positive correlation was found also in the pair of ILD and Level tasks for the low- frequency stimulus. These results indicate that the inter-listener variability of ITD and ILD sensitivities could be accounted for partially by the variability of monaural efficiency of neural phase locking and intensity coding, respectively, depending of frequency.
PMCID: PMC3923152  PMID: 24592207
interaural time difference; interaural level difference; level discrimination; correlation; temporal fine structure; phase locking
4.  Responses of Inferior Colliculus Neurons to SAM Tones Located in Inhibitory Response Areas 
Hearing research  2006;220(1-2):116-125.
In order to examine the effect of inhibition on processing auditory temporal information, responses of single neurons in the inferior colliculus of the chinchilla to sinusoidally amplitude-modulated (SAM) tones alone and the presence of a steady-state tone were obtained. The carrier frequency of the SAM tone was either the characteristic frequency (CF) or a frequency in the inhibitory response area of a studied neuron. When the carrier frequency was set to the neuron’s CF, neurons responded in synchrony to the SAM-tone envelope, as expected. When the carrier frequency was set to a frequency at which pure tones produced inhibition, SAM tones elicited little or no response, also as expected. However, when the same SAM tone was paired with a pure tone whose frequency was set to the neuron’s CF, responses synchronized to the SAM tone envelope were obtained. These modulated responses were typically one-half cycle out-of-phase with the response to the SAM tone at CF, suggesting that they arose from cyclic inhibition and release from inhibition by the SAM tone. The results demonstrate that the representation of temporal information by inferior colliculus neurons is influenced by temporally-patterned inhibition arising from locations remote from CF.
PMCID: PMC1592138  PMID: 16945495
amplitude modulation; inhibition; inferior colliculus; physiology; chinchilla; CAP compound action potential; CF characteristic frequency; CMR comodulation masking release; dB SPL deciBels sound pressure level; DNLL dorsal nucleus of the lateral lemniscus; Fc carrier frequency; Fm modulation frequency; GABA gamma aminobutyric acid; Hz Hertz; IC inferior colliculus; kHz kilohertz; MTF modulation transfer function; PST peri-stimulus time; RA response area; RLF rate-level function; SAM sinusoidally amplitude modulated; VS vector strength
5.  Adaptation in Sound Localization Processing Induced by Interaural Time Difference in Amplitude Envelope at High Frequencies 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(7):e41328.
When a second sound follows a long first sound, its location appears to be perceived away from the first one (the localization/lateralization aftereffect). This aftereffect has often been considered to reflect an efficient neural coding of sound locations in the auditory system. To understand determinants of the localization aftereffect, the current study examined whether it is induced by an interaural temporal difference (ITD) in the amplitude envelope of high frequency transposed tones (over 2 kHz), which is known to function as a sound localization cue.
Methodology/Principal Findings
In Experiment 1, participants were required to adjust the position of a pointer to the perceived location of test stimuli before and after adaptation. Test and adapter stimuli were amplitude modulated (AM) sounds presented at high frequencies and their positional differences were manipulated solely by the envelope ITD. Results showed that the adapter's ITD systematically affected the perceived position of test sounds to the directions expected from the localization/lateralization aftereffect when the adapter was presented at ±600 µs ITD; a corresponding significant effect was not observed for a 0 µs ITD adapter. In Experiment 2, the observed adapter effect was confirmed using a forced-choice task. It was also found that adaptation to the AM sounds at high frequencies did not significantly change the perceived position of pure-tone test stimuli in the low frequency region (128 and 256 Hz).
The findings in the current study indicate that ITD in the envelope at high frequencies induces the localization aftereffect. This suggests that ITD in the high frequency region is involved in adaptive plasticity of auditory localization processing.
PMCID: PMC3407190  PMID: 22848464
Neuroscience  2007;151(3):868-887.
Neurons in the superior paraolivary nucleus (SPON) respond to the offset of pure tones with a brief burst of spikes. Medial nucleus of the trapezoid body (MNTB) neurons, which inhibit the SPON, produce a sustained pure tone response followed by an offset response characterized by a period of suppressed spontaneous activity. This MNTB offset response is duration dependent and critical to the formation of SPON offset spikes (Kadner et al., 2006; Kulesza, Jr. et al., 2007). Here we examine the temporal resolution of the MNTB/SPON circuit by assessing its capability to i) detect gaps in tones, and ii) synchronize to sinusoidally amplitude modulated (SAM) tones. Gap detection was tested by presenting two identical pure tone markers interrupted by gaps ranging from 0–25 ms duration. SPON neurons responded to the offset of the leading marker even when the two markers were separated only by their ramps (i.e., a 0 ms gap); longer gap durations elicited progressively larger responses. MNTB neurons produced an offset response at gap durations of 2 ms or longer, with a subset of neurons responding to 0 ms gaps. SAM tone stimuli used the unit’s characteristic frequency as a carrier, and modulation rates ranged from 40–1160 Hz. MNTB neurons synchronized to modulation rates up to ~1 KHz, whereas spiking of SPON neurons decreased sharply at modulation rates ≥ 400 Hz. Modulation transfer functions based on spike count were all-pass for MNTB neurons and low-pass for SPON neurons; the modulation transfer functions based on vector strength were low-pass for both nuclei, with a steeper cut-off for SPON neurons. Thus, the MNTB/SPON circuit encodes episodes of low stimulus energy, such as gaps in pure tones and troughs in amplitude modulated tones. The output of this circuit consists of brief SPON spiking episodes; their potential effects on the auditory midbrain and forebrain are discussed.
PMCID: PMC2267689  PMID: 18155850
superior olivary complex; brainstem; gap detection; amplitude modulation; sound envelopes
7.  Stream Segregation in the Perception of Sinusoidally Amplitude-Modulated Tones 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(9):e43615.
Amplitude modulation can serve as a cue for segregating streams of sounds from different sources. Here we evaluate stream segregation in humans using ABA- sequences of sinusoidally amplitude modulated (SAM) tones. A and B represent SAM tones with the same carrier frequency (1000, 4000 Hz) and modulation depth (30, 100%). The modulation frequency of the A signals (fmodA) was 30, 100 or 300 Hz, respectively. The modulation frequency of the B signals was up to four octaves higher (Δfmod). Three different ABA- tone patterns varying in tone duration and stimulus onset asynchrony were presented to evaluate the effect of forward suppression. Subjects indicated their 1- or 2-stream percept on a touch screen at the end of each ABA- sequence (presentation time 5 or 15 s). Tone pattern, fmodA, Δfmod, carrier frequency, modulation depth and presentation time significantly affected the percentage of a 2-stream percept. The human psychophysical results are compared to responses of avian forebrain neurons evoked by different ABA- SAM tone conditions [1] that were broadly overlapping those of the present study. The neurons also showed significant effects of tone pattern and Δfmod that were comparable to effects observed in the present psychophysical study. Depending on the carrier frequency, modulation frequency, modulation depth and the width of the auditory filters, SAM tones may provide mainly temporal cues (sidebands fall within the range of the filter), spectral cues (sidebands fall outside the range of the filter) or possibly both. A computational model based on excitation pattern differences was used to predict the 50% threshold of 2-stream responses. In conditions for which the model predicts a considerably larger 50% threshold of 2-stream responses (i.e., larger Δfmod at threshold) than was observed, it is unlikely that spectral cues can provide an explanation of stream segregation by SAM.
PMCID: PMC3440405  PMID: 22984436
8.  Temporal Codes for Amplitude Contrast in Auditory Cortex 
The encoding of sound level is fundamental to auditory signal processing, and the temporal information present in amplitude modulation is crucial to the complex signals used for communication sounds, including human speech. The modulation transfer function, which measures the minimum detectable modulation depth across modulation frequency, has been shown to predict speech intelligibility performance in a range of adverse listening conditions and hearing impairments, and even for users of cochlear implants. We presented sinusoidally amplitude modulated (SAM) tones of varying modulation depths to awake macaque monkeys while measuring the responses of neurons in the auditory core. Using spike train classification methods, we found that thresholds for modulation depth detection and discrimination in the most sensitive units are comparable to psychophysical thresholds when precise temporal discharge patterns rather than average firing rates are considered. Moreover, spike timing information was also superior to average rate information when discriminating static pure tones varying in level but with similar envelopes. The limited utility of average firing rate information in many units also limited the utility of standard measures of sound level tuning, such as the rate level function (RLF), in predicting cortical responses to dynamic signals like SAM. Response modulation typically exceeded that predicted by the slope of the RLF by large factors. The decoupling of the cortical encoding of SAM and static tones indicates that enhancing the representation of acoustic contrast is a cardinal feature of the ascending auditory pathway.
PMCID: PMC3551278  PMID: 20071542
auditory; cortex; temporal coding; contrast; synchrony; spike trains; speech
9.  Mathematical Models of Cochlear Nucleus Onset Neurons: II. Model with Dynamic Spike-Blocking State 
Onset (On) neurons in the cochlear nucleus (CN), characterized by their prominent response to the onset followed by little or no response to the steady-state of sustained stimuli, have a remarkable ability to entrain (firing 1 spike per cycle of a periodic stimulus) to low-frequency tones up to 1000 Hz. In this article, we present a point-neuron model with independent, excitatory auditory-nerve (AN) inputs that accounts for the ability of On neurons to both produce onset responses for high-frequency tone bursts and entrain to a wide range of low-frequency tones. With a fixed-duration spike-blocking state after a spike (an absolute refractory period), the model produces entrainment to a broad range of low-frequency tones and an On response with short interspike intervals (chopping) for high-frequency tone bursts. To produce On response patterns with no chopping, we introduce a novel, more complex, active membrane model in which the spike-blocking state is maintained until the instantaneous membrane voltage falls below a transition voltage. During the sustained depolarization for a high-frequency tone burst, the new model does not chop because it enters a spike-blocking state after the first spike and fails to leave this state until the membrane voltage returns toward rest at the end of the stimulus. The model entrains to low-frequency tones because the membrane voltage falls below the transition voltage on every cycle when the AN inputs are phase-locked. With the complex membrane model, On response patterns having moderate steady-state activity for high-frequency tone bursts (On-L) are distinguished from those having no steady-state activity (On-I) by requiring fewer AN inputs. Voltage-gated ion channels found in On-responding neurons of the CN may underlie the hypothesized dynamic spike-blocking state. These results provide a mechanistic rationale for distinguishing between the different physiological classes of CN On neurons.
PMCID: PMC2270482  PMID: 12435926
refractory period; state-dependent spike discharge; voltage-gated ion channels; cochlear nucleus
10.  Prevalence of Stereotypical Responses to Mistuned Complex Tones in the Inferior Colliculus 
Journal of neurophysiology  2005;94(5):3523-3537.
The human auditory system has an exceptional ability to separate competing sounds, but the neural mechanisms that underlie this ability are not understood. Responses of inferior colliculus (IC) neurons to “mistuned” complex tones were measured to investigate possible neural mechanisms for spectral segregation. A mistuned tone is a harmonic complex tone in which the frequency of one component has been changed; that component may be heard as a separate sound source, suggesting that the mistuned tone engages the same mechanisms that contribute to the segregation of natural sounds. In this study, the harmonic tone consisted of eight harmonics of 250 Hz; in the mistuned tone, the frequency of the fourth harmonic was increased by 12% (120 Hz). The mistuned tone elicited a stereotypical discharge pattern, consisting of peaks separated by about 8 ms and a response envelope modulated with a period of 100 ms, which bore little resemblance to the discharge pattern elicited by the harmonic tone or to the stimulus waveform. Similar discharge patterns were elicited from many neurons with a range of characteristic frequencies, especially from neurons that exhibited short-latency sustained responses to pure tones. In contrast, transient and long-latency neurons usually did not exhibit the stereotypical discharge pattern. The discharge pattern was generally stable when the stimulus level or component phase was varied; the major effect of these manipulations was to shift the phase of the response envelope. Simulation of IC responses with a computational model suggested that off-frequency inhibition could produce discharge patterns with these characteristics.
PMCID: PMC2533264  PMID: 16079190
11.  Temporal Measures and Neural Strategies for Detection of Tones in Noise Based on Responses in Anteroventral Cochlear Nucleus 
Journal of neurophysiology  2006;96(5):2451-2464.
To examine possible neural strategies for the detection of tones in broadband noise, single-neuron extracellular recordings were obtained from the anteroventral cochlear nucleus (AVCN) in anesthetized gerbils. Detection thresholds determined by average discharge rate and several temporal metrics were compared with previously reported psychophysical detection thresholds in cats (Costalupes 1985). Because of their limited dynamic range, the average discharge rates of single neurons failed to predict psychophysical detection thresholds for relatively high-level noise at all measured characteristic frequencies (CFs). However, temporal responses changed significantly when a tone was added to a noise, even for neurons with flat masked rate-level functions. Three specific temporal analyses were applied to neural responses to tones in noise. First, temporal reliability, a measure of discharge time consistency across stimulus repetitions, decreased with increasing tone level for most AVCN neurons at all measured CFs. Second, synchronization to the tone frequency, a measure of phase-locking to the tone, increased with tone level for low-CF neurons. Third, rapid fluctuations in the poststimulus time histograms (PSTHs) decreased with tone level for a number of neurons at all CFs. For each of the three temporal measures, some neurons had detection thresholds at or below psychophysical thresholds. A physiological model of a higher-stage auditory neuron that received simple excitatory and inhibitory inputs from AVCN neurons was able to extract the PSTH fluctuation information in a form of decreased rate with tone level.
PMCID: PMC2577022  PMID: 16914617
12.  Interaural Phase and Level Difference Sensitivity in Low-Frequency Neurons in the Lateral Superior Olive 
The lateral superior olive (LSO) is believed to encode differences in sound level at the two ears, a cue for azimuthal sound location. Most high-frequency-sensitive LSO neurons are binaural, receiving inputs from both ears. An inhibitory input from the contralateral ear, via the medial nucleus of the trapezoid body (MNTB), and excitatory input from the ipsilateral ear enable level differences to be encoded. However, the classical descriptions of low-frequency-sensitive neurons report primarily monaural cells with no contralateral inhibition. Anatomical and physiological evidence, however, shows that low-frequency LSO neurons receive low-frequency inhibitory input from ipsilateral MNTB, which in turn receives excitatory input from the contralateral cochlear nucleus and low-frequency excitatory input from the ipsilateral cochlear nucleus. Therefore, these neurons would be expected to be binaural with contralateral inhibition. Here, we re-examined binaural interaction in low-frequency (less than ~3 kHz) LSO neurons and phase locking in the MNTB. Phase locking to low-frequency tones in MNTB and ipsilaterally driven LSO neurons with frequency sensitivities < 1.2 kHz was enhanced relative to the auditory nerve. Moreover, most low-frequency LSO neurons exhibited contralateral inhibition: ipsilaterally driven responses were suppressed by raising the level of the contralateral stimulus; most neurons were sensitive to interaural time delays in pure tone and noise stimuli such that inhibition was nearly maximal when the stimuli were presented to the ears in-phase. The data demonstrate that low-frequency LSO neurons of cat are not monaural and can exhibit contralateral inhibition like their high-frequency counterparts.
PMCID: PMC1449742  PMID: 16291937
lateral superior olive; medial nucleus of the trapezoid body; interaural time delay; interaural level difference; sound localization; phase locking
13.  Responses of neurons in the marmoset primary auditory cortex to interaural level differences: comparison of pure tones and vocalizations 
Interaural level differences (ILDs) are the dominant cue for localizing the sources of high frequency sounds that differ in azimuth. Neurons in the primary auditory cortex (A1) respond differentially to ILDs of simple stimuli such as tones and noise bands, but the extent to which this applies to complex natural sounds, such as vocalizations, is not known. In sufentanil/N2O anesthetized marmosets, we compared the responses of 76 A1 neurons to three vocalizations (Ock, Tsik, and Twitter) and pure tones at cells' characteristic frequency. Each stimulus was presented with ILDs ranging from 20 dB favoring the contralateral ear to 20 dB favoring the ipsilateral ear to cover most of the frontal azimuthal space. The response to each stimulus was tested at three average binaural levels (ABLs). Most neurons were sensitive to ILDs of vocalizations and pure tones. For all stimuli, the majority of cells had monotonic ILD sensitivity functions favoring the contralateral ear, but we also observed ILD sensitivity functions that peaked near the midline and functions favoring the ipsilateral ear. Representation of ILD in A1 was better for pure tones and the Ock vocalization in comparison to the Tsik and Twitter calls; this was reflected by higher discrimination indices and greater modulation ranges. ILD sensitivity was heavily dependent on ABL: changes in ABL by ±20 dB SPL from the optimal level for ILD sensitivity led to significant decreases in ILD sensitivity for all stimuli, although ILD sensitivity to pure tones and Ock calls was most robust to such ABL changes. Our results demonstrate differences in ILD coding for pure tones and vocalizations, showing that ILD sensitivity in A1 to complex sounds cannot be simply extrapolated from that to pure tones. They also show A1 neurons do not show level-invariant representation of ILD, suggesting that such a representation of auditory space is likely to require population coding, and further processing at subsequent hierarchical stages.
PMCID: PMC4403308  PMID: 25941469
primate; auditory cortex; response properties; sound localization; interaural level differences
14.  Perceptual Sensitivity to High-Frequency Interaural Time Differences Created by Rustling Sounds 
Interaural time differences (ITDs) can be used to localize sounds in the horizontal plane. ITDs can be extracted from either the fine structure of low-frequency sounds or from the envelopes of high-frequency sounds. Studies of the latter have included stimuli with periodic envelopes like amplitude-modulated tones or transposed stimuli, and high-pass filtered Gaussian noises. Here, four experiments are presented investigating the perceptual relevance of ITD cues in synthetic and recorded “rustling” sounds. Both share the broad long-term power spectrum with Gaussian noise but provide more pronounced envelope fluctuations than Gaussian noise, quantified by an increased waveform fourth moment, W. The current data show that the JNDs in ITD for band-pass rustling sounds tended to improve with increasing W and with increasing bandwidth when the sounds were band limited. In contrast, no influence of W on JND was observed for broadband sounds, apparently because of listeners' sensitivity to ITD in low-frequency fine structure, present in the broadband sounds. Second, it is shown that for high-frequency rustling sounds ITD JNDs can be as low as 30 μs. The third result was that the amount of dominance for ITD extraction of low frequencies decreases systematically with increasing amount of envelope fluctuations. Finally, it is shown that despite the exceptionally good envelope ITD sensitivity evident with high-frequency rustling sounds, minimum audible angles of both synthetic and recorded high-frequency rustling sounds in virtual acoustic space are still best when the angular information is mediated by interaural level differences.
PMCID: PMC3254714  PMID: 22124890
binaural hearing; envelope; roughness; duplex theory; dominance region
15.  The Effect of Temporal Stimulus Characteristics in Maintenance of the Acoustic Reflex  
In normal listeners, acoustic reflex decay (ARD) typically occurs for high- but not for low-frequency tones. In patients with acoustic neuromas, decay can be obtained at all frequencies, presumably due to poor neural synchrony. These observations have led us to hypothesize that resistance to decay is due to robust encoding of temporal fine structure of the eliciting stimulus. For a 4-kHz stimulus, ARD is reduced by sinusoidal amplitude modulation (SAM), a result attributed to the low-frequency pattern of SAM providing the temporal characteristics necessary to maintain the reflex. If this interpretation is correct, then further reductions in ARD should be seen for stimuli having temporal characteristics that even more closely resemble the neural response to low-frequency stimulus fine structure. On the other hand, if other perceptual qualities of a SAM tone are responsible for the effect (e.g., rate pitch), then manipulations of perceived sound quality, rather than temporal characteristics per se, should produce similar effects. The experiment reported here included a reference condition, (1) 5-kHz pure tone, and three "temporal" manipulations, composed of a 5-kHz tone multiplied by (2) a raised 100-Hz sinusoid, (3) a noise sample, lowpass filtered at 100 Hz, and (4) a half-wave rectified 100-Hz sinusoid. Additional conditions manipulated perceived pitch. These stimuli spanned 4.5–8 kHz, including a reference condition, (5) Gaussian noise, and a stimulus associated with a 100-Hz pitch, (6) iterated rippled noise. Results show the greatest reductions in ARD with the half-wave rectified stimulus, thought to most closely mimic the temporal characteristics of a low-frequency tone. Little or no reduction in ARD was associated with the iterated rippled noise, suggesting that perceived pitch does not play an important role in maintaining the acoustic reflex.
PMCID: PMC3202455  PMID: 12183766
16.  Responses of Chinchilla Inferior Colliculus Neurons to Amplitude-Modulated Tones with Different Envelopes 
Responses of single neurons in the inferior colliculus of the chinchilla to amplitude-modulated tones were obtained. In one condition, the modulating waveform was a low-frequency sinusoid (SAM tone). In the other, the modulator was a trapezoid with fixed parameters, used to create trains of brief tone bursts presented at various repetition rates (TRAM tone). Modulation frequency (or repetition rate) was varied over the range from 10 to 200 Hz. Many individual neurons exhibited strong selectivity for modulator type. Neurons with pauser discharge patterns to steady-state tones usually exhibited greater responsiveness to SAM tones than to TRAM. In contrast, neurons that responded transiently to steady-state tones usually exhibited greater responsiveness to TRAM tones than to SAM. Neurons with sustained responses to steady-state tones responded strongly to both types of modulated tones. The selectivity for modulator type suggests that transient neurons may play a different functional role in the representation of envelopes than do other types of neurons.
PMCID: PMC3202442  PMID: 12486595
17.  Asymmetric Transfer of Auditory Perceptual Learning 
Perceptual skills can improve dramatically even with minimal practice. A major and practical benefit of learning, however, is in transferring the improvement on the trained task to untrained tasks or stimuli, yet the mechanisms underlying this process are still poorly understood. Reduction of internal noise has been proposed as a mechanism of perceptual learning, and while we have evidence that frequency discrimination (FD) learning is due to a reduction of internal noise, the source of that noise was not determined. In this study, we examined whether reducing the noise associated with neural phase locking to tones can explain the observed improvement in behavioral thresholds. We compared FD training between two tone durations (15 and 100 ms) that straddled the temporal integration window of auditory nerve fibers upon which computational modeling of phase locking noise was based. Training on short tones resulted in improved FD on probe tests of both the long and short tones. Training on long tones resulted in improvement only on the long tones. Simulations of FD learning, based on the computational model and on signal detection theory, were compared with the behavioral FD data. We found that improved fidelity of phase locking accurately predicted transfer of learning from short to long tones, but also predicted transfer from long to short tones. The observed lack of transfer from long to short tones suggests the involvement of a second mechanism. Training may have increased the temporal integration window which could not transfer because integration time for the short tone is limited by its duration. Current learning models assume complex relationships between neural populations that represent the trained stimuli. In contrast, we propose that training-induced enhancement of the signal-to-noise ratio offers a parsimonious explanation of learning and transfer that easily accounts for asymmetric transfer of learning.
PMCID: PMC3502074  PMID: 23181045
perceptual learning; transfer of learning; frequency discrimination; internal noise; phase locking; integration time; auditory; modeling
18.  Responses of Inferior Colliculus Neurons to Double Harmonic Tones 
Journal of neurophysiology  2007;98(6):3171-3184.
The auditory system can segregate sounds that overlap in time and frequency, if the sounds differ in acoustic properties such as fundamental frequency (f0). However, the neural mechanisms that underlie this ability are poorly understood. Responses of neurons in the inferior colliculus (IC) of the anesthetized chinchilla were measured. The stimuli were harmonic tones, presented alone (single harmonic tones) and in the presence of a second harmonic tone with a different f0 (double harmonic tones). Responses to single harmonic tones exhibited no stimulus-related temporal pattern, or in some cases, a simple envelope modulated at f0. Responses to double harmonic tones exhibited complex slowly modulated discharge patterns. The discharge pattern varied with the difference in f0 and with characteristic frequency. The discharge pattern also varied with the relative levels of the two tones; complex temporal patterns were observed when levels were equal, but as the level difference increased, the discharge pattern reverted to that associated with single harmonic tones. The results indicated that IC neurons convey information about simultaneous sounds in their temporal discharge patterns and that the patterns are produced by interactions between adjacent components in the spectrum. The representation is “low-resolution,” in that it does not convey information about single resolved components from either individual sound.
PMCID: PMC2649952  PMID: 17913991
19.  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.
PMCID: PMC3085685  PMID: 21213012
cochlear mechanics; cochlear apex; phase locking; Meriones unguiculatus
20.  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.
PMCID: PMC3085685  PMID: 21213012
cochlear mechanics; cochlear apex; phase locking; Meriones unguiculatus
21.  A new auditory threshold estimation technique for low frequencies: Proof of concept 
Ear and hearing  2013;34(1):42-51.
Presently available non-behavioral methods to estimate auditory thresholds perform less well at frequencies below 1 kHz than at 1 kHz and above. For many uses, such as providing accurate infant hearing aid amplification for low-frequency vowels, we need an accurate non-behavioral method to estimate low-frequency thresholds. Here we develop a novel technique to estimate low-frequency cochlear thresholds based on the use of a previously-reported waveform. We determine how well the method works by comparing the resulting thresholds to thresholds from onset-response compound action potentials (CAPs) and single auditory-nerve (AN) fibers in cats. A long-term goal is to translate this technique for use in humans.
An electrode near the cochlea records a combination of cochlear microphonic (CM) and neural responses. In response to low-frequency, near threshold-level tones, the CM is almost sinusoidal while the neural responses occur preferentially at one phase of the tone. If the tone is presented again but with its polarity reversed, the neural response keeps the same shape, but shifts ½ cycle in time. Averaging responses to tones presented separately at opposite polarities overlaps and interleaves the neural responses and yields a waveform in which the CM is cancelled and the neural response appears twice each tone cycle, i.e. the resulting neural response is mostly at twice the tone frequency. We call the resultant waveform “the auditory nerve overlapped waveform” (ANOW). ANOW level functions were measured in anesthetized cats from 10 to 80 dB SPL in 10 dB steps using tones between 0.3 and 1 kHz. As a response metric, we calculated the magnitude of the ANOW component at twice the tone frequency (ANOW2f). The ANOW threshold was the sound level where the interpolated ANOW2f crossed a statistical criterion that was higher than 95% of the noise floor distribution. ANOW thresholds were compared to onset-CAP thresholds from the same recordings and single-AN-fiber thresholds from the same animals.
We obtained ANOW and onset-CAP level functions for 0.3 to 1 kHz tones, and single-AN-fiber responses from cats. Except at 1 kHz, typical ANOW thresholds were mostly 10-20 dB more sensitive than onset-CAP thresholds and 10-20 dB less sensitive than the most sensitive single-AN-fiber thresholds.
ANOW provides frequency-specific estimates of cochlear neural thresholds over a frequency range that is important for hearing but is not well accessed by non-behavioral, non-invasive methods. Our results suggest that, with further targeted development, the ANOW low-frequency threshold estimation technique can be useful both clinically in humans and in basic-science animal experiments.
PMCID: PMC3495092  PMID: 22874644
audiogram; auditory nerve neurophonic; compound action potential; neural synchrony; phase locking
22.  Human Neuromagnetic Steady-State Responses to Amplitude-Modulated Tones, Speech, and Music 
Ear and Hearing  2014;35(4):461-467.
Auditory steady-state responses that can be elicited by various periodic sounds inform about subcortical and early cortical auditory processing. Steady-state responses to amplitude-modulated pure tones have been used to scrutinize binaural interaction by frequency-tagging the two ears’ inputs at different frequencies. Unlike pure tones, speech and music are physically very complex, as they include many frequency components, pauses, and large temporal variations. To examine the utility of magnetoencephalographic (MEG) steady-state fields (SSFs) in the study of early cortical processing of complex natural sounds, the authors tested the extent to which amplitude-modulated speech and music can elicit reliable SSFs.
MEG responses were recorded to 90-s-long binaural tones, speech, and music, amplitude-modulated at 41.1 Hz at four different depths (25, 50, 75, and 100%). The subjects were 11 healthy, normal-hearing adults. MEG signals were averaged in phase with the modulation frequency, and the sources of the resulting SSFs were modeled by current dipoles. After the MEG recording, intelligibility of the speech, musical quality of the music stimuli, naturalness of music and speech stimuli, and the perceived deterioration caused by the modulation were evaluated on visual analog scales.
The perceived quality of the stimuli decreased as a function of increasing modulation depth, more strongly for music than speech; yet, all subjects considered the speech intelligible even at the 100% modulation. SSFs were the strongest to tones and the weakest to speech stimuli; the amplitudes increased with increasing modulation depth for all stimuli. SSFs to tones were reliably detectable at all modulation depths (in all subjects in the right hemisphere, in 9 subjects in the left hemisphere) and to music stimuli at 50 to 100% depths, whereas speech usually elicited clear SSFs only at 100% depth.
The hemispheric balance of SSFs was toward the right hemisphere for tones and speech, whereas SSFs to music showed no lateralization. In addition, the right lateralization of SSFs to the speech stimuli decreased with decreasing modulation depth.
The results showed that SSFs can be reliably measured to amplitude-modulated natural sounds, with slightly different hemispheric lateralization for different carrier sounds. With speech stimuli, modulation at 100% depth is required, whereas for music the 75% or even 50% modulation depths provide a reasonable compromise between the signal-to-noise ratio of SSFs and sound quality or perceptual requirements. SSF recordings thus seem feasible for assessing the early cortical processing of natural sounds.
Auditory steady state responses to pure tones have been used to study subcortical and cortical processing, to scrutinize binaural interaction, and to evaluate hearing in an objective way. In daily lives, sounds that are physically much more complex sounds are encountered, such as music and speech. This study demonstrates that not only pure tones but also amplitude-modulated speech and music, both perceived to have tolerable sound quality, can elicit reliable magnetoencephalographic steady state fields. The strengths and hemispheric lateralization of the responses differed between the carrier sounds. The results indicate that steady state responses could be used to study the early cortical processing of natural sounds.
PMCID: PMC4072443  PMID: 24603544
Amplitude modulation; Auditory; Frequency tagging; Magnetoencephalography; Natural stimuli
23.  Effects of sensorineural hearing loss on temporal coding of narrowband and broadband signals in the auditory periphery 
Hearing research  2013;303:39-47.
People with sensorineural hearing loss have substantial difficulty understanding speech under degraded listening conditions. Behavioral studies suggest that this difficulty may be caused by changes in auditory processing of the rapidly-varying temporal fine structure (TFS) of acoustic signals. In this paper, we review the presently known effects of sensorineural hearing loss on processing of TFS and slower envelope modulations in the peripheral auditory system of mammals. Cochlear damage has relatively subtle effects on phase locking by auditory-nerve fibers to the temporal structure of narrowband signals under quiet conditions. In background noise, however, sensorineural loss does substantially reduce phase locking to the TFS of pure-tone stimuli. For auditory processing of broadband stimuli, sensorineural hearing loss has been shown to severely alter the neural representation of temporal information along the tonotopic axis of the cochlea. Notably, auditory-nerve fibers innervating the high-frequency part of the cochlea grow increasingly responsive to low-frequency TFS information and less responsive to temporal information near their characteristic frequency (CF). Cochlear damage also increases the correlation of the response to TFS across fibers of varying CF, decreases the traveling-wave delay between TFS responses of fibers with different CFs, and can increase the range of temporal modulation frequencies encoded in the periphery for broadband sounds. Weaker neural coding of temporal structure in background noise and degraded coding of broadband signals along the tonotopic axis of the cochlea are expected to contribute considerably to speech perception problems in people with sensorineural hearing loss.
PMCID: PMC3688697  PMID: 23376018
auditory nerve; sensorineural hearing loss; temporal fine structure; temporal envelope; neural coding; phase locking
24.  Mathematical Models of Cochlear Nucleus Onset Neurons: I. Point Neuron with Many Weak Synaptic Inputs 
The cochlear nucleus (CN) presents a unique opportunity for quantitatively studying input-output transformations by neurons because it gives rise to a variety of different response types from a relatively homogeneous input source, the auditory nerve (AN). Particularly interesting among CN neurons are Onset (On) neurons, which have a prominent response to the onset of sustained sounds followed by little or no response in the steady-state. On neurons contrast sharply with their AN inputs, which respond vigorously throughout stimuli. On neurons can entrain to stimuli (firing once per cycle of a periodic stimulus) at up to 1000 Hz, unlike their AN inputs. To understand the mechanisms underlying these response patterns, we tested whether an integrate-to-threshold point-neuron model with a fixed refractory period can account for On discharge patterns for tones, systematically examining the effect of membrane time constant and the number and strength of the exclusively excitatory AN synaptic inputs. To produce both onset responses to high-frequency tone bursts and entrainment to a broad range of low-frequency tones, the model must have a short time constant (≈0.125 ms) and a large number (>100) of weak synaptic inputs, properties that are consistent with the electrical properties and anatomy of On-responding cells. With these parameters, the model acts like a coincidence detector with a threshold-like relationship between the instantaneous discharge rates of the output and the inputs. Onset responses to high-frequency tone bursts result because the threshold effect enhances the initial response of the AN inputs and suppresses their relatively lower sustained response. However, when the model entrains across a broad range of frequencies, it also produces short interspike intervals at the onset of high-frequency tone bursts, a response pattern not found in all types of On neurons. These results show a tradeoff, that may be a general property of many neurons, between following rapid stimulus fluctuations and responding without short interspike intervals at the onset of sustained stimuli.
PMCID: PMC2280068  PMID: 12435925
integrate-and-fire model; coincidence detection; cochlear nucleus
25.  Modulation of auditory evoked responses to spectral and temporal changes by behavioral discrimination training 
BMC Neuroscience  2009;10:143.
Due to auditory experience, musicians have better auditory expertise than non-musicians. An increased neocortical activity during auditory oddball stimulation was observed in different studies for musicians and for non-musicians after discrimination training. This suggests a modification of synaptic strength among simultaneously active neurons due to the training. We used amplitude-modulated tones (AM) presented in an oddball sequence and manipulated their carrier or modulation frequencies. We investigated non-musicians in order to see if behavioral discrimination training could modify the neocortical activity generated by change detection of AM tone attributes (carrier or modulation frequency). Cortical evoked responses like N1 and mismatch negativity (MMN) triggered by sound changes were recorded by a whole head magnetoencephalographic system (MEG). We investigated (i) how the auditory cortex reacts to pitch difference (in carrier frequency) and changes in temporal features (modulation frequency) of AM tones and (ii) how discrimination training modulates the neuronal activity reflecting the transient auditory responses generated in the auditory cortex.
The results showed that, additionally to an improvement of the behavioral discrimination performance, discrimination training of carrier frequency changes significantly modulates the MMN and N1 response amplitudes after the training. This process was accompanied by an attention switch to the deviant stimulus after the training procedure identified by the occurrence of a P3a component. In contrast, the training in discrimination of modulation frequency was not sufficient to improve the behavioral discrimination performance and to alternate the cortical response (MMN) to the modulation frequency change. The N1 amplitude, however, showed significant increase after and one week after the training. Similar to the training in carrier frequency discrimination, a long lasting involuntary attention to the deviant stimulus was observed.
We found that discrimination training differentially modulates the cortical responses to pitch changes and to envelope fluctuation changes of AM tones. This suggests that discrimination between AM tones requires additional neuronal mechanisms compared to discrimination process between pure tones. After the training, the subjects demonstrated an involuntary attention switch to the deviant stimulus (represented by the P3a-component in the MEG) even though attention was not prerequisite.
PMCID: PMC3224691  PMID: 19951416

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