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1.  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
2.  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
3.  Phase Locking of Auditory-Nerve Fibers to the Envelopes of High-Frequency Sounds: Implications for Sound Localization 
Journal of neurophysiology  2006;96(5):2327-2341.
Although listeners are sensitive to interaural time differences (ITDs) in the envelope of high-frequency sounds, both ITD discrimination performance and the extent of lateralization are poorer for high-frequency sinusoidally amplitude-modulated (SAM) tones than for low-frequency pure tones. Psychophysical studies have shown that ITD discrimination at high frequencies can be improved by using novel transposed-tone stimuli, formed by modulating a high-frequency carrier by a half-wave–rectified sinusoid. Transposed tones are designed to produce the same temporal discharge patterns in high-characteristic frequency (CF) neurons as occur in low-CF neurons for pure-tone stimuli. To directly test this hypothesis, we compared responses of auditory-nerve fibers in anesthetized cats to pure tones, SAM tones, and transposed tones. Phase locking was characterized using both the synchronization index and autocorrelograms. With both measures, phase locking was better for transposed tones than for SAM tones, consistent with the rationale for using transposed tones. However, phase locking to transposed tones and that to pure tones were comparable only when all three conditions were met: stimulus levels near thresholds, low modulation frequencies (<250 Hz), and low spontaneous discharge rates. In particular, phase locking to both SAM tones and transposed tones substantially degraded with increasing stimulus level, while remaining more stable for pure tones. These results suggest caution in assuming a close similarity between temporal patterns of peripheral activity produced by transposed tones and pure tones in both psychophysical studies and neurophysiological studies of central neurons.
PMCID: PMC2013745  PMID: 16807349
4.  Mechanics of the Mammalian Cochlea 
Physiological reviews  2001;81(3):1305-1352.
In mammals, environmental sounds stimulate the auditory receptor, the cochlea, via vibrations of the stapes, the innermost of the middle ear ossicles. These vibrations produce displacement waves that travel on the elongated and spirally wound basilar membrane (BM). As they travel, waves grow in amplitude, reaching a maximum and then dying out. The location of maximum BM motion is a function of stimulus frequency, with high-frequency waves being localized to the “base” of the cochlea (near the stapes) and low-frequency waves approaching the “apex” of the cochlea. Thus each cochlear site has a characteristic frequency (CF), to which it responds maximally. BM vibrations produce motion of hair cell stereocilia, which gates stereociliar transduction channels leading to the generation of hair cell receptor potentials and the excitation of afferent auditory nerve fibers. At the base of the cochlea, BM motion exhibits a CF-specific and level-dependent compressive nonlinearity such that responses to low-level, near-CF stimuli are sensitive and sharply frequency-tuned and responses to intense stimuli are insensitive and poorly tuned. The high sensitivity and sharp-frequency tuning, as well as compression and other nonlinearities (two-tone suppression and intermodulation distortion), are highly labile, indicating the presence in normal cochleae of a positive feedback from the organ of Corti, the “cochlear amplifier.” This mechanism involves forces generated by the outer hair cells and controlled, directly or indirectly, by their transduction currents. At the apex of the cochlea, nonlinearities appear to be less prominent than at the base, perhaps implying that the cochlear amplifier plays a lesser role in determining apical mechanical responses to sound. Whether at the base or the apex, the properties of BM vibration adequately account for most frequency-specific properties of the responses to sound of auditory nerve fibers.
PMCID: PMC3590856  PMID: 11427697
5.  Enhancement and Distortion in the Temporal Representation of Sounds in the Ventral Cochlear Nucleus of Chinchillas and Cats 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(9):e44286.
A subset of neurons in the cochlear nucleus (CN) of the auditory brainstem has the ability to enhance the auditory nerve's temporal representation of stimulating sounds. These neurons reside in the ventral region of the CN (VCN) and are usually known as highly synchronized, or high-sync, neurons. Most published reports about the existence and properties of high-sync neurons are based on recordings performed on a VCN output tract—not the VCN itself—of cats. In other species, comprehensive studies detailing the properties of high-sync neurons, or even acknowledging their existence, are missing.
Examination of the responses of a population of VCN neurons in chinchillas revealed that a subset of those neurons have temporal properties similar to high-sync neurons in the cat. Phase locking and entrainment—the ability of a neuron to fire action potentials at a certain stimulus phase and at almost every stimulus period, respectively—have similar maximum values in cats and chinchillas. Ranges of characteristic frequencies for high-sync neurons in chinchillas and cats extend up to 600 and 1000 Hz, respectively. Enhancement of temporal processing relative to auditory nerve fibers (ANFs), which has been shown previously in cats using tonal and white-noise stimuli, is also demonstrated here in the responses of VCN neurons to synthetic and spoken vowel sounds.
Along with the large amount of phase locking displayed by some VCN neurons there occurs a deterioration in the spectral representation of the stimuli (tones or vowels). High-sync neurons exhibit a greater distortion in their responses to tones or vowels than do other types of VCN neurons and auditory nerve fibers.
Standard deviations of first-spike latency measured in responses of high-sync neurons are lower than similar values measured in ANFs' responses. This might indicate a role of high-sync neurons in other tasks beyond sound localization.
PMCID: PMC3445608  PMID: 23028514
6.  Phase-Locked Responses to Tones of Chinchilla Auditory Nerve Fibers: Implications for Apical Cochlear Mechanics 
Responses to tones with frequency ≤ 5 kHz were recorded from auditory nerve fibers (ANFs) of anesthetized chinchillas. With increasing stimulus level, discharge rate–frequency functions shift toward higher and lower frequencies, respectively, for ANFs with characteristic frequencies (CFs) lower and higher than ∼0.9 kHz. With increasing frequency separation from CF, rate–level functions are less steep and/or saturate at lower rates than at CF, indicating a CF-specific nonlinearity. The strength of phase locking has lower high-frequency cutoffs for CFs >4 kHz than for CFs < 3 kHz. Phase–frequency functions of ANFs with CFs lower and higher than ∼0.9 kHz have inflections, respectively, at frequencies higher and lower than CF. For CFs >2 kHz, the inflections coincide with the tip-tail transitions of threshold tuning curves. ANF responses to CF tones exhibit cumulative phase lags of 1.5 periods for CFs 0.7–3 kHz and lesser amounts for lower CFs. With increases of stimulus level, responses increasingly lag (lead) lower-level responses at frequencies lower (higher) than CF, so that group delays are maximal at, or slightly above, CF. The CF-specific magnitude and phase nonlinearities of ANFs with CFs < 2.5 kHz span their entire response bandwidths. Several properties of ANFs undergo sharp transitions in the cochlear region with CFs 2–5 kHz. Overall, the responses of chinchilla ANFs resemble those in other mammalian species but contrast with available measurements of apical cochlear vibrations in chinchilla, implying that either the latter are flawed or that a nonlinear “second filter” is interposed between vibrations and ANF excitation.
PMCID: PMC2862913  PMID: 19921334
basilar membrane; cochlear apex; phase–frequency functions; rate–frequency functions
7.  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
8.  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
9.  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
10.  The Group Delay and Suppression Pattern of the Cochlear Microphonic Potential Recorded at the Round Window 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e34356.
It is commonly assumed that the cochlear microphonic potential (CM) recorded from the round window (RW) is generated at the cochlear base. Based on this assumption, the low-frequency RW CM has been measured for evaluating the integrity of mechanoelectrical transduction of outer hair cells at the cochlear base and for studying sound propagation inside the cochlea. However, the group delay and the origin of the low-frequency RW CM have not been demonstrated experimentally.
Methodology/Principal Findings
This study quantified the intra-cochlear group delay of the RW CM by measuring RW CM and vibrations at the stapes and basilar membrane in gerbils. At low sound levels, the RW CM showed a significant group delay and a nonlinear growth at frequencies below 2 kHz. However, at high sound levels or at frequencies above 2 kHz, the RW CM magnitude increased proportionally with sound pressure, and the CM phase in respect to the stapes showed no significant group delay. After the local application of tetrodotoxin the RW CM below 2 kHz became linear and showed a negligible group delay. In contrast to RW CM phase, the BM vibration measured at location ∼2.5 mm from the base showed high sensitivity, sharp tuning, and nonlinearity with a frequency-dependent group delay. At low or intermediate sound levels, low-frequency RW CMs were suppressed by an additional tone near the probe-tone frequency while, at high sound levels, they were partially suppressed only at high frequencies.
We conclude that the group delay of the RW CM provides no temporal information on the wave propagation inside the cochlea, and that significant group delay of low-frequency CMs results from the auditory nerve neurophonic potential. Suppression data demonstrate that the generation site of the low-frequency RW CM shifts from apex to base as the probe-tone level increases.
PMCID: PMC3314608  PMID: 22470560
11.  Traveling waves on the organ of Corti of the chinchilla cochlea: spatial trajectories of inner hair cell depolarization inferred from responses of auditory-nerve fibers 
Spatial magnitude and phase profiles for inner hair cell depolarization throughout the chinchilla cochlea were inferred from responses of auditory-nerve fibers to threshold- and moderate-level tones and tone complexes. Firing-rate profiles for frequencies ≤ 2 kHz are bimodal, with the major peak at the characteristic place and a secondary peak at 3–5 mm from the extreme base. Response-phase trajectories are synchronous with peak outward stapes displacement at the extreme cochlear base and accumulate 1.5-period lags at the characteristic places. High-frequency phase trajectories are very similar to the trajectories of basilar-membrane peak velocity toward scala tympani. Low-frequency phase trajectories undergo a polarity flip in a region, 6.5–9 mm from the cochlear base, where traveling-wave phase velocity attains a local minimum and a local maximum and where the onset latencies of near-threshold impulse responses computed from responses to near-threshold white noise exhibit a local minimum. That region is the same where frequency-threshold tuning curves of auditory-nerve fibers undergo a shape transition. Since depolarization of inner hair cells presumably indicates the mechanical stimulus to their stereocilia, the present results suggest that distinct low-frequency forward waves of organ of Corti vibration are launched simultaneously at the extreme base of the cochlea and at the 6.5–9 mm transition region, from where antiphasic reflections arise.
PMCID: PMC3436599  PMID: 22855802
12.  Low-frequency suppression of auditory nerve responses to characteristic frequency tones 
Hearing research  1997;113(1-2):29-56.
The effects of low-frequency (50, 100, 200 and 400 Hz) ‘suppressor’ tones on responses to moderate-level characteristic frequency (CF) tones were measured in chinchilla auditory nerve fibers. Two-tone interactions were evident at suppressor intensities of 70–100 dB SPL. In this range, the average response rate decreased as a function of increasing suppressor level and the instantaneous response rate was modulated periodically. At suppression threshold, the phase of suppression typically coincided with basilar membrane displacement toward scala tympani, regardless of CF. At higher suppressor levels, two suppression maxima coexisted, synchronous with peak basilar membrane displacement toward scala tympani and scala vestibuli. Modulation and rate-suppression thresholds did not vary as a function of spontaneous activity and were only minimally correlated with fiber sensitivity. Except for fibers with CF < 1 kHz, modulation and rate-suppression thresholds were lower than rate and phase-locking thresholds for the suppressor tones presented alone. In the case of high-CF fibers with low spontaneous activity, excitation thresholds could exceed suppression thresholds by more than 30 dB. The strength of modulation decreased systematically with increasing suppressor frequency. For a given suppressor frequency, modulation was strongest in high-CF fibers and weakest in low-CF fibers. The present findings strongly support the notion that low-frequency suppression in auditory nerve fibers largely reflects an underlying basilar membrane phenomenon closely related to compressive non-linearity.
PMCID: PMC3578423  PMID: 9387984
Auditory nerve; Biasing; Modulation; Rate suppression; Basilar membrane; Inner hair cells; Cochlea; Chinchilla
13.  Selective Electrical Stimulation of the Auditory Nerve Activates a Pathway Specialized for High Temporal Acuity 
Deaf people who use cochlear implants show surprisingly poor sensitivity to the temporal fine structure of sounds. One possible reason is that conventional cochlear implants cannot activate selectively the auditory-nerve fibers having low characteristic frequencies (CFs), which, in normal hearing, phase lock to stimulus fine structure. Recently, we tested in animals an alternative mode of auditory prosthesis employing penetrating auditory-nerve electrodes that permit frequency-specific excitation in all frequency regions. We present here measures of temporal transmission through the auditory brainstem – from pulse trains presented with various auditory-nerve electrodes to phase-locked activity of neurons in the central nucleus of the inferior colliculus (ICC). On average, intraneural stimulation resulted in significant ICC phase locking at higher pulse rates (i.e., higher “limiting rates”) than did cochlear-implant stimulation. That could be attributed, however, to the larger percentage of low-CF neurons activated selectively by intraneural stimulation. Most ICC neurons with limiting rates >500 pulses per second had CFs <1.5 kHz, whereas neurons with lower limiting rates tended to have higher CFs. High limiting rates also correlated strongly with short first-spike latencies. It follows that short latencies correlated significantly with low CFs, opposite to the correlation observed with acoustical stimulation. These electrical-stimulation results reveal a high-temporal-acuity brainstem pathway characterized by low CFs, short latencies, and high-fidelity transmission of periodic stimulation. Frequency-specific stimulation of that pathway by intraneural stimulation might improve temporal acuity in human users of a future auditory prosthesis, which in turn might improve musical pitch perception and speech reception in noise.
PMCID: PMC2828779  PMID: 20130202
Inferior colliculus; phase locking; cochlear implant; temporal acuity; latency; auditory nerve
14.  Refractoriness Enhances Temporal Coding by Auditory Nerve Fibers 
The Journal of Neuroscience  2013;33(18):7681-7690.
A universal property of spiking neurons is refractoriness, a transient decrease in discharge probability immediately following an action potential (spike). The refractory period lasts only one to a few milliseconds, but has the potential to affect temporal coding of acoustic stimuli by auditory neurons, which are capable of submillisecond spike-time precision. Here this possibility was investigated systematically by recording spike times from chicken auditory nerve fibers in vivo while stimulating with repeated pure tones at characteristic frequency. Refractory periods were tightly distributed, with a mean of 1.58 ms. A statistical model was developed to recapitulate each fiber's responses and then used to predict the effect of removing the refractory period on a cell-by-cell basis for two largely independent facets of temporal coding: faithful entrainment of interspike intervals to the stimulus frequency and precise synchronization of spike times to the stimulus phase. The ratio of the refractory period to the stimulus period predicted the impact of refractoriness on entrainment and synchronization. For ratios less than ∼0.9, refractoriness enhanced entrainment and this enhancement was often accompanied by an increase in spike-time precision. At higher ratios, little or no change in entrainment or synchronization was observed. Given the tight distribution of refractory periods, the ability of refractoriness to improve temporal coding is restricted to neurons responding to low-frequency stimuli. Enhanced encoding of low frequencies likely affects sound localization and pitch perception in the auditory system, as well as perception in nonauditory sensory modalities, because all spiking neurons exhibit refractoriness.
PMCID: PMC3865560  PMID: 23637161
15.  Response Growth With Sound Level in Auditory-Nerve Fibers After Noise-Induced Hearing Loss 
Journal of neurophysiology  2003;91(2):784-795.
People with sensorineural hearing loss are often constrained by a reduced acoustic dynamic range associated with loudness recruitment; however, the neural correlates of loudness and recruitment are still not well understood. The growth of auditory-nerve (AN) activity with sound level was compared in normal-hearing cats and in cats with a noise-induced hearing loss to test the hypothesis that AN-fiber rate-level functions are steeper in impaired ears. Stimuli included best-frequency and fixed-frequency tones, broadband noise, and a brief speech token. Three types of impaired responses were observed. 1) Fibers with rate-level functions that were similar across all stimuli typically had broad tuning, consistent with outer-hair-cell (OHC) damage. 2) Fibers with a wide dynamic range and shallow slope above threshold often retained sharp tuning, consistent with primarily inner-hair-cell (IHC) damage. 3) Fibers with very steep rate-level functions for all stimuli had thresholds above approximately 80 dB SPL and very broad tuning, consistent with severe IHC and OHC damage. Impaired rate-level slopes were on average shallower than normal for tones, and were steeper in only limited conditions. There was less variation in rate-level slopes across stimuli in impaired fibers, presumably attributable to the lack of suppression-induced reductions in slopes for complex stimuli relative to BF-tone slopes. Sloping saturation was observed less often in impaired fibers. These results illustrate that AN fibers do not provide a simple representation of the basilar-membrane I/O function and suggest that both OHC and IHC damage can affect AN response growth.
PMCID: PMC2921373  PMID: 14534289
16.  GABAergic inhibition sharpens the frequency tuning and enhances phase locking in chicken nucleus magnocellularis neurons 
The Journal of Neuroscience  2010;30(36):12075-12083.
GABAergic modulation of activity in avian cochlear nucleus neurons has been studied extensively in vitro. However, how this modulation actually influences processing in vivo is not known. We investigated responses of chicken nucleus magnocellularis (NM) neurons to sound while pharmacologically manipulating the inhibitory input from the superior olivary nucleus (SON). SON receives excitatory inputs from nucleus angularis (NA) and nucleus laminaris (NL), and provides GABAergic inputs to NM, NA, NL, and putatively to the contralateral SON. Results from single unit extracellular recordings from 2–4 wks posthatch chickens show that firing rates of auditory nerve fibers (ANFs) increased monotonically with sound intensity, while that of NM neurons saturated or even decreased at moderate or loud sound levels. Blocking GABAergic input with local application of TTX into the SON induced an increase in firing rate of ipsilateral NM while that of the contralateral NM decreased at high sound levels. Moreover, local application of bicuculline to NM also increased the firing rate of NM neurons at high sound levels, reduced phase-locking, and broadened the frequency tuning properties of NM neurons. Following application of DNQX, clear evidence of inhibition was observed. Furthermore, the inhibition was tuned to a broader frequency range than the excitatory response areas. We conclude that GABAergic inhibition from SON has at least three physiological influences on the activity of NM neurons: it regulates the firing activity of NM units in a sound-level dependent manner; it improves phase selectivity; and it sharpens frequency tuning of NM neuronal responses.
PMCID: PMC3376706  PMID: 20826670
Superior olivary nucleus; Cochlear nucleus; Bicuculline; GABA; Auditory; In vivo
17.  Timing of cochlear responses inferred from frequency-threshold tuning curves of auditory-nerve fibers 
Hearing research  2010;272(1-2):178-186.
Links between frequency tuning and timing were explored in the responses to sound of auditory-nerve fibers. Synthetic transfer functions were constructed by combining filter functions, derived via minimum-phase computations from average frequency-threshold tuning curves of chinchilla auditory-nerve fibers with high spontaneous activity (A. N. Temchin et al., J. Neurophysiol. 100: 2889–2898, 2008), and signal-front delays specified by the latencies of basilar-membrane and auditory-nerve fiber responses to intense clicks (A. N. Temchin et al., J. Neurophysiol. 93: 3635–3648, 2005). The transfer functions predict several features of the phase-frequency curves of cochlear responses to tones, including their shape transitions in the regions with characteristic frequencies of 1 kHz and 3–4 kHz (A. N. Temchin and M. A. Ruggero, JARO 11: 297–318, 2010). The transfer functions also predict the shapes of cochlear impulse responses, including the polarities of their frequency sweeps and their transition at characteristic frequencies around 1 kHz. Predictions are especially accurate for characteristic frequencies < 1 kHz.
PMCID: PMC3039049  PMID: 20951191
18.  Medial-olivocochlear-efferent inhibition of the first peak of auditory-nerve responses: Evidence for a new motion within the cochlea 
Despite the insights obtained from click responses, the effects of medial-olivocochlear (MOC) efferents on click responses from single-auditory-nerve (AN) fibers have not been reported. We recorded responses of cat single AN fibers to randomized click level series with and without electrical stimulation of MOC efferents. MOC stimulation inhibited (1) the whole response at low sound levels, (2) the decaying part of the response at all sound levels, and (3) the first peak of the response at moderate to high sound levels. The first two effects were expected from previous reports using tones and are consistent with a MOC-induced reduction of cochlear amplification. The inhibition of the AN first peak, which was strongest in the apex and middle of the cochlea, was unexpected because the first peak of the classic basilar-membrane (BM) traveling wave receives little or no amplification. In the cochlear base, the click data were ambiguous, but tone data showed particularly short group delays in the tail-frequency region that is strongly inhibited by MOC efferents. Overall, the data support the hypothesis that there is a motion that bends inner-hair-cell stereocilia and can be inhibited by MOC efferents, a motion that is present through most, or all, of the cochlea and for which there is no counterpart in the classic BM traveling wave.
PMCID: PMC1810352  PMID: 16266164
19.  Noise-induced hearing loss alters the temporal dynamics of auditory-nerve responses 
Hearing research  2010;269(1-2):23-33.
Auditory-nerve fibers demonstrate dynamic response properties in that they adapt to rapid changes in sound level, both at the onset and offset of a sound. These dynamic response properties affect temporal coding of stimulus modulations that are perceptually relevant for many sounds such as speech and music. Temporal dynamics have been well characterized in auditory-nerve fibers from normal-hearing animals, but little is known about the effects of sensorineural hearing loss on these dynamics. This study examined the effects of noise-induced hearing loss on the temporal dynamics in auditory-nerve fiber responses from anesthetized chinchillas. Post-stimulus time histograms were computed from responses to 50-ms tones presented at characteristic frequency and 30 dB above fiber threshold. Several response metrics related to temporal dynamics were computed from post-stimulus-time histograms and were compared between normal-hearing and noise-exposed animals. Results indicate that noise-exposed auditory-nerve fibers show significantly reduced response latency, increased onset response and percent adaptation, faster adaptation after onset, and slower recovery after offset. The decrease in response latency only occurred in noise-exposed fibers with significantly reduced frequency selectivity. These changes in temporal dynamics have important implications for temporal envelope coding in hearing-impaired ears, as well as for the design of dynamic compression algorithms for hearing aids.
PMCID: PMC2934744  PMID: 20696230
Auditory nerve; adaptation; recovery; latency; acoustic trauma; chinchilla
20.  Electrically-Evoked Frequency-Following Response (EFFR) in the Auditory Brainstem of Guinea Pigs 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(9):e106719.
It is still a difficult clinical issue to decide whether a patient is a suitable candidate for a cochlear implant and to plan postoperative rehabilitation, especially for some special cases, such as auditory neuropathy. A partial solution to these problems is to preoperatively evaluate the functional integrity of the auditory neural pathways. For evaluating the strength of phase-locking of auditory neurons, which was not reflected in previous methods using electrically evoked auditory brainstem response (EABR), a new method for recording phase-locking related auditory responses to electrical stimulation, called the electrically evoked frequency-following response (EFFR), was developed and evaluated using guinea pigs. The main objective was to assess feasibility of the method by testing whether the recorded signals reflected auditory neural responses or artifacts. The results showed the following: 1) the recorded signals were evoked by neuron responses rather than by artifact; 2) responses evoked by periodic signals were significantly higher than those evoked by the white noise; 3) the latency of the responses fell in the expected range; 4) the responses decreased significantly after death of the guinea pigs; and 5) the responses decreased significantly when the animal was replaced by an electrical resistance. All of these results suggest the method was valid. Recording obtained using complex tones with a missing fundamental component and using pure tones with various frequencies were consistent with those obtained using acoustic stimulation in previous studies.
PMCID: PMC4171095  PMID: 25244253
21.  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.
PMCID: PMC3259745  PMID: 12612008
22.  Two-Tone Distortion on the Basilar Membrane of the Chinchilla Cochlea 
Journal of neurophysiology  1997;77(5):2385-2399.
Basilar membrane responses to pairs of tones were measured, with the use of a laser velocimeter, in the basal turn of the cochlea in anesthetized chinchillas. Frequency spectra of basilar membrane responses to primary tones with frequencies (f1, f2) close to the characteristic frequency (CF) contain prominent odd-order two-tone distortion products (DPs) at frequencies both higher and lower than CF (such as 2f1 − f2, 3f − 2f2, 2f2 − f1 and 3f2 − 2f1). For equal-level primaries with frequencies such that 2f1 − f2 equals CF, the magnitude of the 2f1 − f2 DP grows with primary level at linear or faster rates at low stimulus levels, but it saturates or decreases slightly at higher levels. For a fixed level of one of the primary tones, the magnitude of the 2f1 − f2 DP is a nonmonotonic function of the level of the other primary tone. For low intensities of the variable tone, the grows at a rate of 2f1 − f2 DP grows at a rate of ~2 dB/dB with f1 level and 1 dB/dB with f2 level. DP magnitudes decrease rapidly with increasing primary frequency ratio (f2/f1) at low stimulus levels. For more intense stimuli, DP magnitudes remain constant or decrease slowly over a wide range of frequency ratios until a critical value is reached, at which DP magnitudes fall with slopes as steep as −300 dB/octave. As stimulus level grows, DP phases increasingly lag large f2/f1 ratios, but exhibit leads for small f2/f1 ratios. Cochlear exposure to an intense tone that produces large sensitivity losses for the primary frequencies (but only small losses for tones with frequency equal to 2f1 − f2) causes a substantial decrease in magnitude of the 2f1 − f2 DP. This result demonstrates that the 2f1 − f2 DP originates at the basilar membrane region with CFs corresponding to the primary frequencies and propagates to the location with CF equal to the DP frequency. 2f1 − f2 DPs on the basilar membrane resemble those measured in human psychophysics in most respects. However, the magnitude of basilar membrane DPs does not show the nonmonotonic dependence on f2/f1 ratio evident in DP otoacoustic emissions.
PMCID: PMC3582226  PMID: 9163365
23.  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
24.  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.
PMCID: PMC3840400  PMID: 24324432
acoustic sensor; computer model; digital signal processor; piezoelectric film; electrically evoked auditory brainstem response
25.  Basilar Membrane Vibrations Near the Round Window of the Gerbil Cochlea 
Using a laser velocimeter, responses to tones were measured at a basilar membrane site located about 1.2 mm from the extreme basal end of the gerbil cochlea. In two exceptional cochleae in which function was only moderately disrupted by surgical preparations, basilar membrane responses had characteristic frequencies (CFs) of 34–37 kHz and exhibited a CF-specific compressive nonlinearity: Sensitivity near the CF decreased systematically and the response peaks shifted toward lower frequencies with increasing stimulus level. Response phases also changed with increases in stimulus level, exhibiting small relative lags and leads at frequencies just lower and higher than CF, respectively. Basilar membrane responses to low-level CF tones exceeded the magnitude of stapes vibrations by 54–56 dB. Response phases led stapes vibrations by about 90° at low stimulus frequencies; at higher frequencies, basilar membrane responses increasingly lagged stapes vibration, accumulating 1.5 periods of phase lag at CF. Postmortem, nonlinearities were abolished and responses peaked at ~0.5 octave below CF, with phases which lagged and led in vivo responses at frequencies lower and higher than CF, respectively. In conclusion, basilar membrane responses near the round window of the gerbil cochlea closely resemble those for other basal cochlear sites in gerbil and other species.
PMCID: PMC1868570  PMID: 12382108
inner ear; auditory; basilar membrane; cochlear mechanics; compressive nonlinearity

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