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J Neurophysiol. 2012 Mar;107(6):1598-611. doi: 10.1152/jn.00549.2011. Epub 2011 Dec 21.

Frequency tuning of medial-olivocochlear-efferent acoustic reflexes in humans as functions of probe frequency.

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Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA.


The medial-olivocochlear (MOC) acoustic reflex is thought to provide frequency-specific feedback that adjusts the gain of cochlear amplification, but little is known about how frequency specific the reflex actually is. We measured human MOC tuning through changes in stimulus frequency otoacoustic emissions (SFOAEs) from 40-dB-SPL tones at probe frequencies (f(p)s) near 0.5, 1.0, and 4.0 kHz. MOC activity was elicited by 60-dB-SPL ipsilateral, contralateral, or bilateral tones or half-octave noise bands, with elicitor frequency (f(e)) varied in half-octave steps. Tone and noise elicitors produced similar results. At all probe frequencies, SFOAE changes were produced by a wide range of elicitor frequencies with elicitor frequencies near 0.7-2.0 kHz being particularly effective. MOC-induced changes in SFOAE magnitude and SFOAE phase were surprisingly different functions of f(e): magnitude inhibition largest for f(e) close to f(p), phase change largest for f(e) remote from f(p). The metric ΔSFOAE, which combines both magnitude and phase changes, provided the best match to reported (cat) MOC neural inhibition. Ipsilateral and contralateral MOC reflexes often showed dramatic differences in plots of MOC effect vs. elicitor frequency, indicating that the contralateral reflex does not give an accurate picture of ipsilateral-reflex properties. These differences in MOC effects appear to imply that ipsilateral and contralateral reflexes have different actions in the cochlea. The implication of these results for MOC function, cochlear mechanics, and the production of SFOAEs are discussed.

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