Temporal coding of envelopes and their interaural delays in the inferior colliculus of the unanesthetized rabbit

J Neurophysiol. 1989 Feb;61(2):257-68. doi: 10.1152/jn.1989.61.2.257.


1. The difference in the time of arrival of a sound at the two ears can be used to locate its source along the azimuth. Traditionally, it has been thought that only the on-going interaural temporal disparities (ITDs) produced by sounds of lower frequency (approximately less than 2 kHz) could be used for this purpose. However, ongoing ITDs of low frequency are also produced by envelopes of amplitude-modulated (AM) tones. These ITDs can be detected and used to lateralize complex high-frequency sounds (1, 8, 12, 15, 22, 24, 26). Auditory neurons synchronize to the modulation envelope, but do so at progressively lower modulation frequencies at higher levels of the auditory pathway. Some neurons of the cochlear nucleus synchronize best to frequencies as high as 700 Hz, but those of the inferior colliculus (IC) exhibit their best synchrony below 200 Hz. Even though synchrony to higher modulation frequencies is reduced at higher levels of the auditory pathway, is information about ITDs retained? 2. We answered this question by extracellularly recording the responses of neurons in the IC of the unanesthetized rabbit. We used an unanesthetized preparation because anesthesia alters the responses of neurons in the IC to both monaurally presented tones and ITDs. The unanesthetized rabbit is ideal for auditory research. Recordings can be maintained for long periods, and the acoustic stimulus to each ear can be independently controlled. 3. We studied the responses of 89 units to sinusoidally AM tones presented to the contralateral ear. For each unit, we recorded the response at several modulation frequencies. The degree of phase locking to the envelope at each frequency was measured using the synchronization coefficient. Two measures were used to assess the range of modulation frequencies over which phase locking occurred. The "best AM frequency" was the frequency at which we observed the greatest phase locking. The "highest AM frequency" was the highest frequency at which significant phase locking (0.001 level) was observed. We could not assess synchrony to ipsilateral AM tones directly, because most units did not respond to ipsilateral stimulation. 4. We studied the sensitivity of 63 units to ITDs produced by the envelopes of AM tones. Sensitivity to ITDs was tested by presenting AM tones to the two ears that had the same carrier frequency, but modulation frequencies that differed by 1 Hz. Units that were sensitive to ITDs responded to this stimulus by varying their response rate cyclically at the difference frequency, i.e., 1 Hz.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Auditory Perception*
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Consciousness
  • Ear / physiology*
  • Inferior Colliculi / physiology*
  • Rabbits
  • Sound Localization*
  • Sound*
  • Time Factors