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J Assoc Res Otolaryngol. 2007 Dec;8(4):522-38. Epub 2007 Sep 25.

Detection of tones in reproducible noise maskers by rabbits and comparison to detection by humans.

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  • 1Department of Biomedical and Chemical Engineering, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY 13244, USA.


Processing mechanisms used for detection of tones in noise can be revealed by using reproducible noise maskers and analyzing the pattern of results across masker waveforms. This study reports detection of a 500-Hz tone in broadband reproducible noise by rabbits using a set of masker waveforms for which human results are available. An appetitive-reinforcement, operant-conditioning procedure with bias control was used. Both fixed-level and roving-level noises were used to explore the utility of energy-related cues for detection. An energy-based detection model was able to partially explain the fixed-level results across reproducible noise waveforms for both rabbit and human. A multiple-channel energy model was able to explain fixed-level results, as well as the robust performance observed with roving-level noises. Further analysis using the energy model indicated a difference between species: human detection was influenced most by the noise spectrum surrounding the tone frequency, whereas rabbit detection was influenced most by the noise spectrum at frequencies above that of the tone. In addition, a temporal envelope-based model predicted detection by humans as well as the single-channel energy model did, but the envelope-based model failed to predict detection by rabbits. This result indicates that the contributions of energy and temporal cues to auditory processing differ across species. Overall, these findings suggest that caution must be used when evaluating neural encoding mechanisms in one species on the basis of behavioral results in another.

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