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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2018 Feb 6;115(6):E1309-E1318. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1717948115. Epub 2018 Jan 23.

The eardrums move when the eyes move: A multisensory effect on the mechanics of hearing.

Gruters KG1,2,3, Murphy DLK1,2,3, Jenson CD1,2,3, Smith DW4, Shera CA5,6, Groh JM7,2,3.

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Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708.
Department of Neurobiology, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708.
Duke Institute for Brain Sciences, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708.
Program in Behavioral and Cognitive Neuroscience, Department of Psychology, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611.
Caruso Department of Otolaryngology, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA 90033.
Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA 90033.
Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708;


Interactions between sensory pathways such as the visual and auditory systems are known to occur in the brain, but where they first occur is uncertain. Here, we show a multimodal interaction evident at the eardrum. Ear canal microphone measurements in humans (n = 19 ears in 16 subjects) and monkeys (n = 5 ears in three subjects) performing a saccadic eye movement task to visual targets indicated that the eardrum moves in conjunction with the eye movement. The eardrum motion was oscillatory and began as early as 10 ms before saccade onset in humans or with saccade onset in monkeys. These eardrum movements, which we dub eye movement-related eardrum oscillations (EMREOs), occurred in the absence of a sound stimulus. The amplitude and phase of the EMREOs depended on the direction and horizontal amplitude of the saccade. They lasted throughout the saccade and well into subsequent periods of steady fixation. We discuss the possibility that the mechanisms underlying EMREOs create eye movement-related binaural cues that may aid the brain in evaluating the relationship between visual and auditory stimulus locations as the eyes move.


EMREO; middle ear muscles; otoacoustic emissions; reference frame; saccade

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