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J Acoust Soc Am. 2011 Sep;130(3):1559-66. doi: 10.1121/1.3613938.

Discrimination between sequential and simultaneous virtual channels with electrical hearing.

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Division of Communication and Auditory Neuroscience, House Ear Institute, 2100 West 3rd Street, Los Angeles, California 90057, USA.


In cochlear implants (CIs), simultaneous or sequential stimulation of adjacent electrodes can produce intermediate pitch percepts between those of the component electrodes. However, it is unclear whether simultaneous and sequential virtual channels (VCs) can be discriminated. In this study, CI users were asked to discriminate simultaneous and sequential VCs; discrimination was measured for monopolar (MP) and bipolar + 1 stimulation (BP + 1), i.e., relatively broad and focused stimulation modes. For sequential VCs, the interpulse interval (IPI) varied between 0.0 and 1.8 ms. All stimuli were presented at comfortably loud, loudness-balanced levels at a 250 pulse per second per electrode (ppse) stimulation rate. On average, CI subjects were able to reliably discriminate between sequential and simultaneous VCs. While there was no significant effect of IPI or stimulation mode on VC discrimination, some subjects exhibited better VC discrimination with BP + 1 stimulation. Subjects' discrimination between sequential and simultaneous VCs was correlated with electrode discrimination, suggesting that spatial selectivity may influence perception of sequential VCs. To maintain equal loudness, sequential VC amplitudes were nearly double those of simultaneous VCs, presumably resulting in a broader spread of excitation. These results suggest that perceptual differences between simultaneous and sequential VCs might be explained by differences in the spread of excitation.

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