Encoding of steady-state vowels in the auditory nerve: representation in terms of discharge rate

J Acoust Soc Am. 1979 Aug;66(2):470-9. doi: 10.1121/1.383098.


Responses of large populations of auditory-nerve fibers to synthesized steady-state vowels were recorded in anesthetized cats. Driven discharge rate to vowels, normalized by dividing by saturation rate (estimated from the driven rate to CF tones 50 dB above threshold), was plotted versus fiber CF for a number of vowel levels. For the vowels /I/ and /e/, such rate profiles showed a peak in the region of the first formant and another in the region of the second and third formants, for sound levels below about 70 dB SPL. For /a/ at levels below about 40 dB SPL there are peaks in the region of the first and second formants. At higher levels these peaks disappear for all the vowels because of a combination of rate saturation and two-tone suppression. This must be qualified by saying that rate profiles plotted separately for units with spontaneous rates less than one spike per second may retain peaks at higher levels. Rate versus level functions for units with CFs above the first formant can saturate at rates less than the saturation rate to CF to-es or they can be nonmonotonic; these effects are most likely produced by the same mechanism as that involved in two-tone suppression.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation*
  • Animals
  • Cats
  • Phonetics
  • Vestibulocochlear Nerve / physiology*