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J Acoust Soc Am. 1993 Jun;93(6):3374-89.

Periodicity extraction in the anuran auditory nerve. II: Phase and temporal fine structure.

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Department of Psychology, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island 02912.


Discharge patterns of single eighth nerve fibers in the bullfrog, Rana catesbeiana, were analyzed in response to signals consisting of multiple harmonics of a common, low-amplitude fundamental frequency. The signals were chosen to reflect the frequency and amplitude spectrum of the bullfrog's species-specific advertisement call. The phase spectrum of the signals was manipulated to produce envelopes that varied in their shapes from impulselike (sharp) to noiselike (flattened). Peripheral responses to these signals were analyzed by computing the autocorrelation functions of the spike trains and their power spectra, as well as by constructing period histograms over the time intervals of the low-frequency harmonics. In response to a phase aligned signal with an impulsive envelope, most fibers, regardless of their characteristic frequencies or place of origin within the inner ear, synchronize to the fundamental frequency of the signal. The temporal patterns of fiber discharge to these stimuli are not typically captured by that stimulus harmonic closet to the fiber characteristic frequency, as would be expected from a spectral coding mechanism for periodicity extraction, but instead directly reflect the periodicity of the stimulus envelope. Changing the phase relations between the individual harmonics constituting the signal produces changes in temporal discharge patterns of some fibers by shifting predominant synchronization away from the fundamental frequency to the low-frequency spectral peak in the complex stimuli. The proportion of fibers whose firing is captured by the fundamental frequency decreases as the waveform envelope becomes less impulselike. Fiber characteristic frequency is not highly correlated with the harmonic number to which synchronization is strongest. The higher-harmonic spectral fine structure of the signals is not reflected in fiber temporal response, regardless of the shape of the stimulus envelope, even for those harmonics within the range of phase locking to simple sinusoids. Increasing stimulus intensity also shifts the synchronized responses of some fibers away from the fundamental frequency to one of the low-frequency harmonics in the stimuli. These data suggest that the synchronized firing of bullfrog eighth nerve fibers operates to extract the waveform periodicity of complex, multiple-harmonic stimuli, and this periodicity extraction is influenced by the phase spectrum and temporal fine structure of the stimuli. The similarity in response patterns of amphibian papilla and basilar papilla fibers argues that the frog auditory system employs primarily a temporal mechanism for extraction of first harmonic periodicity.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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