Binaural interaction in low-frequency neurons in inferior colliculus of the cat. II. Effects of changing rate and direction of interaural phase

J Neurophysiol. 1983 Oct;50(4):1000-19. doi: 10.1152/jn.1983.50.4.1000.


We used the binaural beat stimulus to study the interaural phase sensitivity of inferior colliculus (IC) neurons in the cat. The binaural beat, produced by delivering tones of slightly different frequencies to the two ears, generates continuous and graded changes in interaural phase. Over 90% of the cells that exhibit a sensitivity to changes in the interaural delay also show a sensitivity to interaural phase disparities with the binaural beat. Cells respond with a burst of impulses with each complete cycle of the beat frequency. The period histogram obtained by binning the poststimulus time histogram on the beat frequency gives a measure of the interaural phase sensitivity of the cell. In general, there is good correspondence in the shapes of the period histograms generated from binaural beats and the interaural phase curves derived from interaural delays and in the mean interaural phase angle calculated from them. The magnitude of the beat frequency determines the rate of change of interaural phase and the sign determines the direction of phase change. While most cells respond in a phase-locked manner up to beat frequencies of 10 Hz, there are some cells tht will phase lock up to 80 Hz. Beat frequency and mean interaural phase angle are linearly related for most cells. Most cells respond equally in the two directions of phase change and with different rates of change, at least up to 10 Hz. However, some IC cells exhibit marked sensitivity to the speed of phase change, either responding more vigorously at low beat frequencies or at high beat frequencies. In addition, other cells demonstrate a clear directional sensitivity. The cells that show sensitivity to the direction and speed of phase changes would be expected to demonstrate a sensitivity to moving sound sources in the free field. Changes in the mean interaural phase of the binaural beat period histograms are used to determine the effects of changes in average and interaural intensity on the phase sensitivity of the cells. The effects of both forms of intensity variation are continuously distributed. The binaural beat offers a number of advantages for studying the interaural phase sensitivity of binaural cells. The dynamic characteristics of the interaural phase can be varied so that the speed and direction of phase change are under direct control. The data can be obtained in a much more efficient manner, as the binaural beat is about 10 times faster in terms of data collection than the interaural delay.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Animals
  • Auditory Pathways / physiology*
  • Cats / physiology*
  • Ear / innervation*
  • Inferior Colliculi / cytology
  • Inferior Colliculi / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Reaction Time