Concurrent Development of the Head and Pinnae and the Acoustical Cues to Sound Location in a Precocious Species, the Chinchilla (Chinchilla Lanigera)

J Assoc Res Otolaryngol. 2011 Apr;12(2):127-40. doi: 10.1007/s10162-010-0242-3. Epub 2010 Oct 19.


Sounds are filtered in a spatial- and frequency-dependent manner by the head and pinna giving rise to the acoustical cues to sound source location. These spectral and temporal transformations are dependent on the physical dimensions of the head and pinna. Therefore, the magnitudes of binaural sound location cues-the interaural time (ITD) and level (ILD) differences-are hypothesized to systematically increase while the lower frequency limit of substantial ILD production is expected to decrease due to the increase in head and pinna size during development. The frequency ranges of the monaural spectral notch cues to source elevation are also expected to decrease. This hypothesis was tested here by measuring directional transfer functions (DTFs), the directional components of head-related transfer functions, and the linear dimensions of the head and pinnae for chinchillas from birth through adulthood. Dimensions of the head and pinna increased by factors of 1.8 and 2.42, respectively, reaching adult values by ~6 weeks. From the DTFs, the ITDs, ILDs, and spectral shape cues were computed. Maximum ITDs increased by a factor of 1.75, from ~160 μs at birth (P0-1, first postnatal day) to 280 μs in adults. ILDs depended on source location and frequency exhibiting a shift in the frequency range of substantial ILD (>10 dB) from higher to lower frequencies with increasing head and pinnae size. Similar trends were observed for the spectral notch frequencies which ranged from 14.7-33.4 kHz at P0-1 to 5.3-19.1 kHz in adults. The development of the spectral notch cues, the spatial- and frequency-dependent distributions of DTF amplitude gain, acoustic directionality, maximum gain, and the acoustic axis were systematically related to the dimensions of the head and pinnae. The dimension of the head and pinnae in the chinchilla as well as the acoustical properties associated with them are mature by ~6 weeks.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Acoustics*
  • Aging / physiology
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Auditory Pathways / growth & development
  • Auditory Pathways / physiology
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Chinchilla / growth & development
  • Chinchilla / physiology*
  • Cues*
  • Ear Auricle / growth & development*
  • Head / growth & development*
  • Humans
  • Models, Animal
  • Sound Localization / physiology*