Discrimination of temporal sequences is crucial for auditory object recognition, phoneme categorization and speech understanding. The present study shows that auditory brainstem responses (ABR) to pairs of noise bursts separated by a short gap can be classified into two distinct groups based on the ratio of gap duration to initial noise burst duration in guinea pigs. If this ratio was smaller than 0.5, the ABR to the trailing noise burst was strongly suppressed. On the other hand, if the initial noise burst duration was short compared to the gap duration (a ratio greater than 0.5), a release from suppression and/or enhancement of the trailing ABR was observed. Consequently, initial noise bursts of shorter duration caused a faster transition between response classes than initial noise bursts of longer duration. We propose that the described findings represent a neural correlate of subcortical categorical preprocessing of temporal sequences in the auditory system.
Keywords: Auditory system; Perception; Sensory processing.