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1.  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
2.  Auditory brainstem responses predict auditory nerve fiber thresholds and frequency selectivity in hearing impaired chinchillas 
Hearing research  2011;280(1-2):236-244.
Non-invasive auditory brainstem responses (ABRs) are commonly used to assess cochlear pathology in both clinical and research environments. In the current study, we evaluated the relationship between ABR characteristics and more direct measures of cochlear function. We recorded ABRs and auditory nerve (AN) single-unit responses in seven chinchillas with noise induced hearing loss. ABRs were recorded for 1–8 kHz tone burst stimuli both before and several weeks after four hours of exposure to a 115 dB SPL, 50 Hz band of noise with a center frequency of 2 kHz. Shifts in ABR characteristics (threshold, wave I amplitude, and wave I latency) following hearing loss were compared to AN-fiber tuning curve properties (threshold and frequency selectivity) in the same animals. As expected, noise exposure generally resulted in an increase in ABR threshold and decrease in wave I amplitude at equal SPL. Wave I amplitude at equal sensation level (SL), however, was similar before and after noise exposure. In addition, noise exposure resulted in decreases in ABR wave I latency at equal SL and, to a lesser extent, at equal SPL. The shifts in ABR characteristics were significantly related to AN-fiber tuning curve properties in the same animal at the same frequency. Larger shifts in ABR thresholds and ABR wave I amplitude at equal SPL were associated with greater AN threshold elevation. Larger reductions in ABR wave I latency at equal SL, on the other hand, were associated with greater loss of AN frequency selectivity. This result is consistent with linear systems theory, which predicts shorter time delays for broader peripheral frequency tuning. Taken together with other studies, our results affirm that ABR thresholds and wave I amplitude provide useful estimates of cochlear sensitivity. Furthermore, comparisons of ABR wave I latency to normative data at the same SL may prove useful for detecting and characterizing loss of cochlear frequency selectivity.
PMCID: PMC3179834  PMID: 21699970
Auditory brainstem response (ABR); auditory nerve; auditory threshold; frequency selectivity; hearing loss
3.  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
4.  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
5.  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
6.  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
7.  Dorsal cochlear nucleus response properties following acoustic trauma: Response maps and spontaneous activity 
Hearing research  2006;216-217:176-188.
Recordings from single neurons in the dorsal cochlear nucleus (DCN) of unanesthetized (decerebrate) cats were done to characterize the effects of acoustic trauma. Trauma was produced by a 250 Hz band of noise centered at 10 kHz, presented at 105–120 dB SPL for 4 h. After a one-month recovery period, neurons were recorded in the DCN. The threshold shift, determined from compound action-potential audiograms, showed a sharp threshold elevation of about 60 dB at BFs above an edge frequency of 5–10 kHz. The response maps of neurons with best frequencies (BFs) above the edge did not show the typical organization of excitatory and inhibitory areas seen in the DCN of unexposed animals. Instead, neurons showed no response to sound, weak responses that were hard to tune and characterize, or “tail” responses, consisting of broadly-tuned, predominantly excitatory responses, with a roughly low-pass shape similar to the tuning curves of auditory nerve fibers with similar threshold shifts. In some tail responses whose BFs were near the edge of the threshold elevation, a second weak high-frequency response was seen that suggests convergence of auditory nerve inputs with widely separated BFs on these cells. Spontaneous rates among neurons with elevated thresholds were not increased over those in populations of principal neurons in unexposed animals.
PMCID: PMC1582886  PMID: 16630701
Dorsal cochlear nucleus; Acoustic trauma; Response maps; Spontaneous activity
8.  Review: Salicylate-Induced Cochlear Impairments, Cortical Hyperactivity and Re-Tuning, and Tinnitus 
Hearing research  2012;295:100-113.
High doses of sodium salicylate (SS) have long been known to induce temporary hearing loss and tinnitus, effects attributed to cochlear dysfunction. However, our recent publications reviewed here show that SS can induce profound, permanent, and unexpected changes in the cochlea and central nervous system. Prolonged treatment with SS permanently decreased the cochlear compound action potential (CAP) amplitude in vivo. In vitro, high dose SS resulted in a permanent loss of spiral ganglion neurons and nerve fibers, but did not damage hair cells. Acute treatment with high-dose SS produced a frequency-dependent decrease in the amplitude of distortion product otoacoustic emissions and CAP. Losses were greatest at low and high frequencies, but least at the mid-frequencies (10-20 kHz), the mid-frequency band that corresponds to the tinnitus pitch measured behaviorally. In the auditory cortex, medial geniculate body and amygdala, high-dose SS enhanced sound-evoked neural responses at high stimulus levels, but it suppressed activity at low intensities and elevated response threshold. When SS was applied directly to the auditory cortex or amygdala, it only enhanced sound evoked activity, but did not elevate response threshold. Current source density analysis revealed enhanced current flow into the supragranular layer of auditory cortex following systemic SS treatment. Systemic SS treatment also altered tuning in auditory cortex and amygdala; low frequency and high frequency multiunit clusters up-shifted or down-shifted their characteristic frequency into the 10-20 kHz range thereby altering auditory cortex tonotopy and enhancing neural activity at mid-frequencies corresponding to the tinnitus pitch. These results suggest that SS-induced hyperactivity in auditory cortex originates in the central nervous system, that the amygdala potentiates these effects and that the SS-induced tonotopic shifts in auditory cortex, the putative neural correlate of tinnitus, arises from the interaction between the frequency-dependent losses in the cochlea and hyperactivity in the central nervous system.
PMCID: PMC4191647  PMID: 23201030
sodium salicylate; auditory cortex; amygdala; medial geniculate body; auditory nerve; distortion product otoacoustic emission; tinnitus; startle reflex
9.  Temporal Modulation Transfer Functions Measured From Auditory-Nerve Responses Following Sensorineural Hearing Loss 
Hearing Research  2012;286(1-2):64-75.
The ability of auditory-nerve (AN) fibers to encode modulation frequencies, as characterized by temporal modulation transfer functions (TMTFs), generally shows a low-pass shape with a cut-off frequency that increases with fiber characteristic frequency (CF). Because AN-fiber bandwidth increases with CF, this result has been interpreted to suggest that peripheral filtering has a significant effect on limiting the encoding of higher modulation frequencies. Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL), which is typically associated with broadened tuning, is thus predicted to increase the range of modulation frequencies encoded; however, perceptual studies have generally not supported this prediction. The present study sought to determine whether the range of modulation frequencies encoded by AN fibers is affected by SNHL, and whether the effects of SNHL on envelope coding are similar at all modulation frequencies within the TMTF passband. Modulation response gain for sinusoidally amplitude modulated (SAM) tones was measured as a function of modulation frequency, with the carrier frequency placed at fiber CF. TMTFs were compared between normal-hearing chinchillas and chinchillas with a noise-induced hearing loss for which AN fibers had significantly broadened tuning. Synchrony and phase responses for individual SAM-tone components were quantified to explore a variety of factors that can influence modulation coding. Modulation gain was found to be higher than normal in noise-exposed fibers across the entire range of modulation frequencies encoded by AN fibers. The range of modulation frequencies encoded by noise-exposed AN fibers was not affected by SNHL, as quantified by TMTF 3- and 10-dB cut-off frequencies. These results suggest that physiological factors other than peripheral filtering may have a significant role in determining the range of modulation frequencies encoded in AN fibers. Furthermore, these neural data may help to explain the lack of a consistent association between perceptual measures of temporal resolution and degraded frequency selectivity.
PMCID: PMC3326227  PMID: 22366500
Auditory nerve; sensorineural hearing loss; acoustic trauma; modulation; envelope coding; chinchilla
10.  Noise-induced hearing loss increases the temporal precision of complex envelope coding by auditory-nerve fibers 
While changes in cochlear frequency tuning are thought to play an important role in the perceptual difficulties of people with sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL), the possible role of temporal processing deficits remains less clear. Our knowledge of temporal envelope coding in the impaired cochlea is limited to two studies that examined auditory-nerve fiber responses to narrowband amplitude modulated stimuli. In the present study, we used Wiener-kernel analyses of auditory-nerve fiber responses to broadband Gaussian noise in anesthetized chinchillas to quantify changes in temporal envelope coding with noise-induced SNHL. Temporal modulation transfer functions (TMTFs) and temporal windows of sensitivity to acoustic stimulation were computed from 2nd-order Wiener kernels and analyzed to estimate the temporal precision, amplitude, and latency of envelope coding. Noise overexposure was associated with slower (less negative) TMTF roll-off with increasing modulation frequency and reduced temporal window duration. The results show that at equal stimulus sensation level, SNHL increases the temporal precision of envelope coding by 20–30%. Furthermore, SNHL increased the amplitude of envelope coding by 50% in fibers with CFs from 1–2 kHz and decreased mean response latency by 0.4 ms. While a previous study of envelope coding demonstrated a similar increase in response amplitude, the present study is the first to show enhanced temporal precision. This new finding may relate to the use of a more complex stimulus with broad frequency bandwidth and a dynamic temporal envelope. Exaggerated neural coding of fast envelope modulations may contribute to perceptual difficulties in people with SNHL by acting as a distraction from more relevant acoustic cues, especially in fluctuating background noise. Finally, the results underscore the value of studying sensory systems with more natural, real-world stimuli.
PMCID: PMC3925834  PMID: 24596545
amplitude modulation; auditory nerve; sensorineural hearing loss; temporal envelope; temporal resolution; Wiener-kernel analysis
11.  Otoacoustic Estimation of Cochlear Tuning: Validation in the Chinchilla 
We analyze published auditory-nerve and otoacoustic measurements in chinchilla to test a network of hypothesized relationships between cochlear tuning, cochlear traveling-wave delay, and stimulus-frequency otoacoustic emissions (SFOAEs). We find that the physiological data generally corroborate the network of relationships, including predictions from filter theory and the coherent-reflection model of OAE generation, at locations throughout the cochlea. The results support the use of otoacoustic emissions as noninvasive probes of cochlear tuning. Developing this application, we find that tuning ratios—defined as the ratio of tuning sharpness to SFOAE phase-gradient delay in periods—have a nearly species-invariant form in cat, guinea pig, and chinchilla. Analysis of the tuning ratios identifies a species-dependent parameter that locates a transition between “apical-like” and “basal-like” behavior involving multiple aspects of cochlear physiology. Approximate invariance of the tuning ratio allows determination of cochlear tuning from SFOAE delays. We quantify the procedure and show that otoacoustic estimates of chinchilla cochlear tuning match direct measures obtained from the auditory nerve. By assuming that invariance of the tuning ratio extends to humans, we derive new otoacoustic estimates of human cochlear tuning that remain mutually consistent with independent behavioral measurements obtained using different rationales, methodologies, and analysis procedures. The results confirm that at any given characteristic frequency (CF) human cochlear tuning appears sharper than that in the other animals studied, but varies similarly with CF. We show, however, that the exceptionality of human tuning can be exaggerated by the ways in which species are conventionally compared, which take no account of evident differences between the base and apex of the cochlea. Finally, our estimates of human tuning suggest that the spatial spread of excitation of a pure tone along the human basilar membrane is comparable to that in other common laboratory animals.
PMCID: PMC2914235  PMID: 20440634
cochlea; frequency selectivity; auditory nerve; basilar membrane; otoacoustic emissions; psychophysical masking; filter theory; coherent reflection; model
12.  Basilar membrane responses to two-tone and broadband stimuli 
The responses to sound of mammalian cochlear neurons exhibit many nonlinearities, some of which (such as two-tone rate suppression and intermodulation distortion) are highly frequency specific, being strongly tuned to the characteristic frequency (cf) of the neuron. With the goal of establishing the cochlear origin of these auditory-nerve nonlinearities, mechanical responses to clicks and to pairs of tones were studied in relatively healthy chinchilla cochleae at a basal site of the basilar membrane with cf of 8–10 kHz. Responses were also obtained in cochleae in which hair cell receptor potentials were reduced by systemic furosemide injection. Vibrations were recorded using either the Mössbauer technique or laser Doppler-shift velocimetry. Responses to tone pairs contained intermodulation distortion products whose magnitudes as a function of stimulus frequency and intensity were comparable to those of distortion products in cochlear afferent responses. Responses to cf tones could be selectively suppressed by tones with frequency either higher or lower than cf; in most respects, mechanical two-tone suppression resembled rate suppression in cochlear afferents. Responses to clicks displayed a cf-specific compressive nonlinearity, similar to that present in responses to single tones, which could be profoundly and selectively reduced by furosemide. The present findings firmly support the hypothesis that all cf-specific nonlinearities present in the auditory nerve originate in analogous phenomena of basilar membrane vibration. However, because of their lability, it is almost certain that the mechanical nonlinearities themselves originate in outer hair cells.
PMCID: PMC3578387  PMID: 1354369
13.  Effects of Electrical Stimulation of Olivocochlear Fibers in Cochlear Potentials in the Chinchilla 
The mammalian cochlea has two types of sensory cells; inner hair cells, which receive auditory-nerve afferent innervation, and outer hair cells, innervated by efferent axons of the medial olivocochlear (MOC) system. The role of the MOC system in hearing is still controversial. Recently, by recording cochlear potentials in behaving chinchillas, we suggested that one of the possible functions of the efferent system is to reduce cochlear sensitivity during attention to other sensory modalities (Delano et al. in J Neurosci 27:4146–4153, 2007). However, in spite of these compelling results, the physiological effects of electrical MOC activation on cochlear potentials have not been described in detail in chinchillas. The main objective of the present work was to describe these efferent effects in the chinchilla, comparing them with those in other species and in behavioral experiments. We activated the MOC efferent axons in chinchillas with sectioned middle-ear muscles by applying current pulses at the fourth-ventricle floor. Auditory-nerve compound action potentials (CAP) and cochlear microphonics (CM) were acquired in response to clicks and tones of several frequencies, using a round-window electrode. Electrical efferent stimulation produced CAP amplitude suppressions reaching up to 11 dB. They were higher for low to moderate sound levels. Additionally, CM amplitude increments were found, the largest (≤ 2.5 dB) for low intensity tones. CAP suppression was present at all stimulus frequencies, but was greatest for 2 kHz. CM increments were highest for low-frequency tones, and almost absent at high frequencies. We conclude that the effect obtained in chinchilla is similar to but smaller than that observed in cats, and that the effects seen in awake chinchillas, albeit different in magnitude, are consistent with the activation of efferent fibers.
PMCID: PMC3085692  PMID: 21365333
auditory efferent; olivocochlear; chinchilla; electric stimulation; cochlear potentials
14.  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
15.  Chronic Reduction of Endocochlear Potential Reduces Auditory Nerve Activity: Further Confirmation of an Animal Model of Metabolic Presbyacusis 
Gerbils aged in quiet show a decline of the endocochlear potential (EP) and elevated auditory nerve compound action potential (CAP) thresholds. However, establishing a direct relationship between an age-related reduction in the EP and changes in the activities of primary auditory neurons is difficult owing to the complexity of age-related histological changes in the cochlea. To address this issue, we developed a young gerbil model of “metabolic” presbyacusis that uses an osmotic pump to deliver furosemide into the round window niche for 7 days, resulting in a chronically reduced EP. In this model, the only major histopathologic changes were restricted to the hook region of the cochlea and consisted of loss of strial intermediate cells and massive edema in the lateral wall. The morphological and physiological evidence suggests that the cochlea can adapt to furosemide application over time. The morphology of spiral ganglion cells and hair cells appeared normal throughout the cochlea. CAP responses and EP values in this model are similar to those of quiet-aged ears. The spontaneous activity of single auditory fibers (n = 188) was assessed in 15 young gerbils treated with furosemide for 7 days. The percentage of recorded low-spontaneous rate (SR) fibers at characteristic frequencies (CFs) ≥ 6 kHz was significantly lower in furosemide-treated than in control ears. Recovery function tests of CAP responses after prior stimulation also showed a decline in activity of the low-SR population with CFs ≥ 6 kHz in the treated cochleas. A similar loss in the activity of low-SR fiber has been previously shown in quiet-aged gerbils. These results suggest that dysfunction of the cochlear lateral wall and subsequent chronic reduction in the EP can directly affect the activity patterns of primary auditory neurons in a manner similar to that seen in aged gerbils.
PMCID: PMC2914241  PMID: 20372958
age-related hearing loss; endocochlear potential; auditory nerve; spontaneous activity; furosemide; cochlear lateral wall; stria vascularis
16.  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
17.  Tone and call responses of units in the auditory nerve and dorsal medullary nucleus of Xenopus laevis 
The clawed frog Xenopus laevis produces vocalizations consisting of distinct patterns of clicks. This study provides the first description of spontaneous, pure-tone and communication-signal evoked discharge properties of auditory nerve (n.VIII) fibers and dorsal medullary nucleus (DMN) cells in an obligatorily aquatic anuran. Responses of 297 n.VIII and 253 DMN units are analyzed for spontaneous rates (SR), frequency tuning, rate-intensity functions, and firing rate adaptation, with a view to how these basic characteristics shape responses to recorded call stimuli. Response properties generally resemble those in partially terrestrial anurans. Broad tuning exists across characteristic frequencies (CFs). Threshold minima are −101 dB re 1 mm/s at 675 Hz; −87 dB at 1,600 Hz; and −61 dB at 3,000 Hz (−90, −77, and −44 dB re 1 Pa, respectively), paralleling the peak frequency of vocalizations at 1.2–1.6 kHz with ~500 Hz in 3 dB bandwidth. SRs range from 0 to 80 (n.VIII) and 0 to 73 spikes/s (DMN). Nerve and DMN units of all CFs follow click rates in natural calls, ≤67 clicks/s and faster. Units encode clicks with a single spike, double spikes, or bursts. Spike times correlate closely with click envelopes. No temporal filtering for communicative click rates occurs in either n.VIII or the DMN.
PMCID: PMC3493246  PMID: 17989982
Auditory nerve; Hearing; Amphibian; Dorsal medullary nucleus; Sound communication
18.  Auditory Nerve Frequency Tuning Measured with Forward-Masked Compound Action Potentials 
Frequency selectivity is a fundamental cochlear property. Recent studies using otoacoustic emissions and psychophysical forward masking suggest that frequency selectivity is sharper in human than in common laboratory species. This has been disputed based on reports using compound action potentials (CAPs), which reflect activity in the auditory nerve and can be measured in humans. Comparative data of CAPs, obtained with a variety of simultaneous masking protocols, have been interpreted to indicate similarity of frequency tuning across mammals and even birds. Unfortunately, there are several issues with the available CAP measurements which hamper a straightforward comparison across species. We investigate sharpness of CAP tuning in cat and chinchilla using a forward masking notched-noise paradigm—which is less confounded by cochlear nonlinearities than simultaneous masking paradigms and similar to what was used in the psychophysical study reporting sharper tuning in humans. Our parametric study, using different probe frequencies and notch widths, shows relationships consistent with those of auditory nerve fibers (ANFs). The sharpness of tuning, quantified by Q10 factors, is negatively correlated with probe level and increases with probe frequency, but the Q10 values are generally lower than the average trend for ANFs. Like the single fiber data, tuning for CAPs is sharper in cat than in chinchilla, but the two species are similar in the dependence of tuning on probe frequency and in the relationship between tuning in ANFs and CAP. Growth-of-maskability functions show slopes <1 indicating that with increasing probe level the probe is more susceptible to cochlear compression than the masker. The results support the use of forward-masked CAPs as an alternative measure to estimate ANF tuning and to compare frequency tuning across species.
PMCID: PMC3505591  PMID: 22948475
cochlear tuning; sharpness of tuning; forward masking; growth-of-maskability; frequency selectivity
19.  Distortion Product Otoacoustic Emissions and Auditory Evoked Potentials in the Hedgehog Tenrec, Echinops telfairi 
The hedgehog tenrec, Echinops telfairi, has certain basal mammalian features, like a cloaca and a sparsely differentiated brain with smooth cerebral hemispheres. The peripheral auditory capabilities of this species were investigated by means of distortion product otoacoustic emissions (DPOAE). For comparison, we determined auditory evoked potentials (AEP) in the inferior colliculus and the auditory cortex. Both methods show that the auditory range of E. telfairi extends well into ultrasonic frequencies, with a region of highest sensitivity at around 16 kHz. The total auditory range spans about 4 octaves at 40 dB SPL. The low-frequency limit of auditory processing is found at frequencies of about 2–3 kHz. The DPOAE and the AEP thresholds of E. telfairi do not run fully parallel in the high-frequency range. For a threshold value of 40 dB SPL, cochlear mechanical thresholds as measured with DPOAE extend up to 50 kHz, whereas neuronal thresholds reach the high-frequency limit at about 30 kHz. Frequency tuning, as assessed from DPOAE suppression tuning curves, was low to moderate with Q10dB values ranging from 1.7 to 8. The lack of discontinuity in the group delay (derived from DPOAE measurements) reveals that cochlear frequency representation is tonotopic without any region of specialized mechanical tuning.
PMCID: PMC3202739  PMID: 14569428
auditory system; mammal; insectivora; DPOAE; AEP
20.  Distortion Product Otoacoustic Emission and Auditory Brainstem Responses in the Echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus)  
The auditory function of four wild-caught echidnas was measured using distortion product otoacoustic emissions (DPOAEs) and auditory brainstem responses (ABRs). Emission audiograms were constructed by finding the stimulus levels required to produce a criterion emission amplitude at a given stimulus frequency. For an emission amplitude of -10 dB SPL, the median "best threshold" was 28 dB SPL, and this minimum threshold occurred between 4 and 8 kHz for all animals. The relative effective range of auditory function was defined by the frequencies at which the audiogram was 30 dB above its best threshold. For the emission audiograms, the median lower-frequency limit was 2.3 kHz, the upper limit was 18.4 kHz, and the effective range was 2.7 octaves. The audiogram as measured by ABR was also found to be strongly "U" shaped with similar low- and high-frequency limits, i.e., from 1.6 to 13.9 kHz, with an effective range of 3.1 octaves. These results suggest that the echidna has a behavioral hearing sensitivity comparable to that of typical therian mammals (e.g., rabbits and gerbils) but with a significantly narrower frequency range. DPOAE responses were also measured in selected animals as a function of the variation of all four stimulus parameters (frequencies and intensities of both stimulus tones). Overall, the measured emission responses establish that the echidna does have a cochlear amplifier, and that it could be the same type as in therian mammals. The amplification mechanism in the echidna, currently unidentified, clearly operates to frequencies above 20 kHz, higher than the hearing function observed in any birds or reptiles but lower than for typical therian mammals. This raises the possibility that at least some aspects of the mammalian cochlear amplifier developed early in evolution, before the divergence of the monotremes (echidna and platypus) from the mainstream therian mammals (marsupials and placentals). In this respect, the presence or absence of outer hair cell electromotility in monotremes would have important consequences for understanding the function and evolution of the vertebrate inner ear.
PMCID: PMC3201180  PMID: 11550523
21.  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
22.  Spectro-Temporal Characteristics of Speech at High Frequencies, and the Potential for Restoration of Audibility to People with Mild-to-Moderate Hearing Loss 
Ear and hearing  2008;29(6):907-922.
It is possible for auditory prostheses to provide amplification for frequencies above 6 kHz. However, most current hearing-aid fitting procedures do not give recommended gains for such high frequencies. This study was intended to provide information that could be useful in quantifying appropriate high-frequency gains, and in establishing the population of hearing-impaired people who might benefit from such amplification.
The study had two parts. In the first part, wide-bandwidth recordings of normal conversational speech were obtained from a sample of male and female talkers. The recordings were used to determine the mean spectral shape over a wide frequency range, and to determine the distribution of levels (the speech dynamic range) as a function of center frequency. In the second part, audiometric thresholds were measured for frequencies of 0.125, 0.25, 0.5, 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12.5 kHz for both ears of 31 people selected to have mild or moderate cochlear hearing loss. The hearing loss was never greater than 70 dB for any frequency up to 4 kHz.
The mean spectrum level of the speech fell progressively with increasing center frequency above about 0.5 kHz. For speech with an overall level of 65 dB SPL, the mean 1/3-octave level was 49 and 37 dB SPL for center frequencies of 1 and 10 kHz, respectively. The dynamic range of the speech was similar for center frequencies of 1 and 10 kHz. The part of the dynamic range below the root-mean-square level was larger than reported in previous studies. The mean audiometric thresholds at high frequencies (10 and 12.5 kHz) were relatively high (69 and 77 dB HL, respectively), even though the mean thresholds for frequencies below 4 kHz were 41 dB HL or better.
To partially restore audibility for a hearing loss of 65 dB at 10 kHz would require an effective insertion gain of about 36 dB at 10 kHz. With this gain, audibility could be (partly) restored for 25 of the 62 ears assessed.
PMCID: PMC2688776  PMID: 18685497
23.  Prestin Regulation and Function in Residual Outer Hair Cells after Noise-Induced Hearing Loss 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e82602.
The outer hair cell (OHC) motor protein prestin is necessary for electromotility, which drives cochlear amplification and produces exquisitely sharp frequency tuning. TectaC1509G transgenic mice have hearing loss, and surprisingly have increased OHC prestin levels. We hypothesized, therefore, that prestin up-regulation may represent a generalized response to compensate for a state of hearing loss. In the present study, we sought to determine the effects of noise-induced hearing loss on prestin expression. After noise exposure, we performed cytocochleograms and observed OHC loss only in the basal region of the cochlea. Next, we patch clamped OHCs from the apical turn (9–12 kHz region), where no OHCs were lost, in noise-exposed and age-matched control mice. The non-linear capacitance was significantly higher in noise-exposed mice, consistent with higher functional prestin levels. We then measured prestin protein and mRNA levels in whole-cochlea specimens. Both Western blot and qPCR studies demonstrated increased prestin expression after noise exposure. Finally, we examined the effect of the prestin increase in vivo following noise damage. Immediately after noise exposure, ABR and DPOAE thresholds were elevated by 30–40 dB. While most of the temporary threshold shifts recovered within 3 days, there were additional improvements over the next month. However, DPOAE magnitudes, basilar membrane vibration, and CAP tuning curve measurements from the 9–12 kHz cochlear region demonstrated no differences between noise-exposed mice and control mice. Taken together, these data indicate that prestin is up-regulated by 32–58% in residual OHCs after noise exposure and that the prestin is functional. These findings are consistent with the notion that prestin increases in an attempt to partially compensate for reduced force production because of missing OHCs. However, in regions where there is no OHC loss, the cochlea is able to compensate for the excess prestin in order to maintain stable auditory thresholds and frequency discrimination.
PMCID: PMC3869702  PMID: 24376553
24.  Spatial Tuning Curves Along the Chick Basilar Papilla in Normal and Sound-Exposed Ears 
Intense sound exposure destroys chick short hair cells and damages the tectorial membrane. Within a few days postexposure, signs of repair appear resulting in nearly complete structural recovery of the inner ear. Tectorial membrane repair, however, is incomplete, leaving a permanent defect on the sensory surface. The consequences of this defect on cochlear function, and particularly frequency analysis, are unclear. The present study organizes the sound-induced discharge activity of cochlear nerve units to describe the distribution of neural activity along the tonotopic axis of the basilar papilla. The distribution of this activity is compared in 12-day postexposed and age-matched control groups. Spontaneous activity, tuning curves, and rate–intensity functions were measured in each unit. Discharge activity at 60 frequency and intensity combinations was identified in the tuning curves of hundreds of units. Activity at each of these criterion frequency/intensity combinations was plotted against the unit’s characteristic frequency to construct spatial tuning curves (STCs). The STCs depict tone-driven cochlear nerve activity along the length of the papilla. Tuning sharpness, low- and high- frequency slopes, and the maximum response were quantified for each STC. The sharpness of tuning increased with increasing criterion frequency. However, within a frequency, increasing sound intensity yielded more broadly tuned STCs. Also, the high-frequency slope was consistently steeper than the low-frequency slope. The STCs of exposed ears exhibited slightly less frequency selectivity than control ears across all frequencies and larger maximum responses for STCs with criterion frequencies spanning the tectorial membrane defect. When rate–intensity types were segregated, differences were observed in the STCs between saturating and sloping-up units. We propose that STC shape may be determined by global mechanical events, as well as localized tuning and nonlinear processes associated with individual hair cells. The results indicated that 12 days after intense sound exposure, global and local contributions to spatially distributed neural activity are restored.
PMCID: PMC2538400  PMID: 15357419
cochlear nerve; single nerve units; chicks; acoustic overstimulation; hair cell regeneration; tuning curves; basilar papilla
25.  Effect of infrasound on cochlear damage from exposure to a 4-kHz octave band of noise 
Hearing research  2007;225(1-2):128-138.
Infrasound (i.e., < 20 Hz for humans; < 100 Hz for chinchillas) is not audible, but exposure to high levels of infrasound will produce large movements of cochlear fluids. We speculated that high-level infrasound might bias the basilar membrane and perhaps be able to minimize noise-induced hearing loss. Chinchillas were simultaneously exposed to a 30 Hz tone at 100 dB SPL and a 4-kHz OBN at either 108 dB SPL for 1.75 h or 86 dB SPL for 24 h. For each animal, the tympanic membrane (TM) in one ear was perforated (~1 mm2) prior to exposure to attenuate infrasound transmission to that cochlea by about 50 dB SPL. Controls included animals that were exposed to the infrasound only or the 4-kHz OBN only. ABR threshold shifts (TSs) and DPOAE level shifts (LSs) were determined pre- and post-TM-perforation and immediately post-exposure, just before cochlear fixation. The cochleae were dehydrated, embedded in plastic, and dissected into flat preparations of the organ of Corti (OC). Each dissected segment was evaluated for losses of inner hair cells (IHCs) and outer hair cells (OHCs). For each chinchilla, the magnitude and pattern of functional and hair cell losses were compared between their right and left cochleae. The TM perforation produced no ABR TS across frequency but did produce a 10–21 dB DPOAE LS from 0.6–2 kHz. The infrasound exposure alone resulted in a 10–20 dB ABR TS at and below 2 kHz, no DPOAE LS and no IHC or OHC losses. Exposure to the 4-kHz OBN alone at 108 dB produced a 10–50 dB ABR TS for 0.5–12 kHz, a 10–60 dB DPOAE LS for 0.6–16 kHz and severe OHC loss in the middle of the first turn. When infrasound was present during exposure to the 4-kHz OBN at 108 dB, the functional losses and OHC losses extended much further toward the apical and basal tips of the OC than in cochleae exposed to the 4-kHz OBN alone. Exposure to only the 4-kHz OBN at 86 dB produces a 10–40 dB ABR TS for 3–12 kHz and 10–30 dB DPOAE LS for 3–8 kHz but little or no OHC loss in the middle of the first turn. No differences were found in the functional and hair-cell losses from exposure to the 4-kHz OBN at 86 dB in the presence or absence of infrasound. We hypothesize that exposure to infrasound and an intense 4-kHz OBN increases cochlear damage because the large fluid movements from infrasound cause more intermixing of cochlear fluids through the damaged reticular lamina. Simultaneous infrasound and a moderate 4-kHz OBN did not increase cochlear damage because the reticular lamina rarely breaks down during this moderate level exposure.
PMCID: PMC2593403  PMID: 17300889
Infrasound; noise; histopathology; ABR; DPOAE; chinchilla

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