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J Neurosci Res. 2001 Dec 15;66(6):1035-46.

Auditory processing of interaural timing information: new insights.

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Department of Neuroscience, University of Connecticut Health Center, 263 Farmington Ave., Farmington, CT 06030, USA.


Differences in the time-of-arrival of sounds at the two ears, or interaural temporal disparities (ITDs), constitute one of the major binaural cues that underlie our ability to localize sounds in space. In addition, ITDs contribute to our ability to detect and to discriminate sounds, such as speech, in noisy environments. For low-frequency signals, ITDs are conveyed primarily by "cycle-by-cycle" disparities present in the fine-structure of the waveform. For high-frequency signals, ITDs are conveyed by disparities within the time-varying amplitude, or envelope, of the waveform. The results of laboratory studies conducted over the past few decades indicate that ITDs within the envelopes of high-frequency are less potent than those within the fine-structure of low-frequency stimuli. This is true for both measures of sensitivity to changes in ITD and for measures of the extent of the perceived lateral displacement of sounds containing ITDs. Colburn and Esquissaud (1976) hypothesized that it is differences in the specific aspects of the waveform that are coded neurally within each monaural (single ear) channel that account for the greater potency of ITDs at low frequencies rather than any differences in the more central binaural mechanisms that serve these different frequency regions. In this review, the results of new studies are reported that employed special high-frequency "transposed" stimuli that were designed to provide the high-frequency channels of the binaural processor with envelope-based information that mimics waveform-based information normally available only in low-frequency channels. The results demonstrate that these high-frequency transposed stimuli (1) yield sensitivity to ITDs that approaches, or is equivalent to, that obtained with "conventional" low-frequency stimuli and (2) yield large extents of laterality that are similar to those measured with conventional low-frequency stimuli. These findings suggest that by providing the high-frequency channels of the binaural processor with information that mimics that normally available only at low frequencies, the potency of ITDs in the two frequency regions can be made to be similar, if not identical. These outcomes provide strong support for Colburn and Esquissaud's (1976) hypothesis. The use of high-frequency transposed stimuli, in both behavioral and physiological investigations offers the promise of new and important insights into the nature of binaural processing.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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