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J Neurosci. 2001 Jul 1;21(13):4844-51.

Tuning to interaural time differences across frequency.

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  • 1Department of Surgery, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27599-7070, and Department of Neuroscience, University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington, Connecticut 06030-3405, USA.


Interaural time differences (ITDs) are an important cue for azimuthal sound localization. Sensitivity to this cue depends on temporal synchrony to the waveform (i.e., phase locking) that begins in the hair cells and is relayed to the neural comparators. The synchrony function is low-pass. Therefore, it is expected that neural tuning to ITDs will become narrower with frequency according to a 1/frequency function. To test this, we measured ITD tuning across frequency in neurons from the superior olivary complex, the dorsal nucleus of the lateral lemniscus, the inferior colliculus, the auditory thalamus, and the auditory cortex. For some neurons in each nucleus, the ITD tuning width did become systematically narrower by the expected 1/frequency relationship. However, in other neurons the ITD tuning width was nearly constant across frequency. Constant ITD tuning width was infrequently observed in neurons of the superior olivary complex but was common in neurons in structures above the superior olivary complex. The nearly constant ITD tuning was caused both by sharper ITD tuning at low frequencies and broader tuning at higher frequencies within the low-frequency band. Neurons with nearly constant tuning to ITDs may be the mechanism underlying the perception of ITDs in humans in which just-noticeable differences to changes in ITD decrease by less than the 1/frequency prediction.

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