Persistence of excitation and neural adaptation are competing theories proposed to explain the mechanisms underlying psychophysical forward masking. Previous research has been directed towards finding models that accurately describe the phenomenon but cannot account for the underlying explanation. The current study was designed to determine which theory best accounts for results obtained from behavioral gap duration adjustment tasks. Thirteen adults adjusted the gap within asymmetrical noise markers to be subjectively equal to the gap within equal-intensity-noise markers. The duration of the perceived gap between the asymmetrical markers is expected to vary depending on which theory dominates perception. The persistence of excitation mechanism would lead to longer duration gaps when the second noise marker is lower in intensity than the preceding. Neural adaptation would result in matched gaps that are shorter in duration when the second noise marker was lower in level. The outcome of our data analysis is consistent with the persistence of excitation as a dominant mechanism in forward masking.
Keywords: Adaptation and aftereffects; Audition; Psychoacoustics.