Variation in the phase of response to low-frequency pure tones in the guinea pig auditory nerve as functions of stimulus level and frequency

J Assoc Res Otolaryngol. 2009 Jun;10(2):233-50. doi: 10.1007/s10162-008-0151-x. Epub 2008 Dec 18.


The directionality of hair cell stimulation combined with the vibration of the basilar membrane causes the auditory nerve fiber action potentials, in response to low-frequency stimuli, to occur at a particular phase of the stimulus waveform. Because direct mechanical measurements at the cochlear apex are difficult, such phase locking has often been used to indirectly infer the basilar membrane motion. Here, we confirm and extend earlier data from mammals using sine wave stimulation over a wide range of sound levels (up to 90 dB sound pressure level). We recorded phase-locked responses to pure tones over a wide range of frequencies and sound levels of a large population of auditory nerve fibers in the anesthetized guinea pig. The results indicate that, for a constant frequency of stimulation, the phase lag decreases with increases in the characteristic frequency (CF) of the nerve fiber. The phase lag decreases up to a CF above the stimulation frequency, beyond which it decreases at a much slower rate. Such phase changes are consistent with known basal cochlear mechanics. Measurements from individual fibers showed smaller but systematic variations in phase with sound level, confirming previous reports. We found a "null" stimulation frequency at which little variation in phase occurred with sound level. This null frequency was often not at the CF. At stimulation frequencies below the null, there was a progressive lag with sound level and a progressive lead for stimulation frequencies above the null. This was maximally 0.2 cycles.

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation*
  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • Auditory Pathways / physiology
  • Auditory Threshold
  • Basilar Membrane / physiology
  • Cochlear Nerve / physiology*
  • Evoked Potentials, Auditory*
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Pitch Perception / physiology*