Cochlear Microphonic Measurements of Interaural Time Differences in the Chick

Hear Res. 1994 Dec;81(1-2):109-18. doi: 10.1016/0378-5955(94)90158-9.


The major cues for the sound localization are the interaural differences in the timing and intensity of acoustic information. This poses a difficult coding problem for animals with relatively small heads, such as birds, because interaural time differences (ITDs) would have a small range and magnitude and interaural intensity differences (IIDs) would be significant for only high frequency sounds. It has been suggested that this coding problem is mitigated in birds by an enhancement of ITDs and IIDs resulting from the acoustic coupling of the two middle ear cavities through an interaural canal. In this report, the functional ITDs for sounds at different azimuthal locations were recorded in young chicks, and the contribution of middle ear acoustic coupling was evaluated. ITDs were calculated from simultaneous cochlear microphonic (CM) recordings evoked by pure tone stimuli. These effective ITDs were larger than predicted by the physical separation of the two ears, and this enhancement was more pronounced at low (0.8 and 1 kHz) than at high (2 and 4 kHz) frequencies, reaching maximum values of approximately 180 and 100 microseconds, respectively. The amplitude of the CM also varied as a function of sound source location. This variation was as much as +/- 30%, even for the low frequency tones. This suggests that IID cues are also available to the chick. To determine the contribution of middle ear acoustic coupling to the timing and amplitude of the CM response, the CM in one ear was measured prior to, and following occlusion of the contralateral external auditory canal. The cochlear microphonic from the ear distal to the sound source advanced in time and increased in amplitude when the ear proximal to the sound source was sealed. These effects were more pronounced for low frequency sounds. These findings confirm that acoustic coupling of the middle ear cavities plays a role in enhancing sound localization cues in the chick.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Animals
  • Auditory Threshold / physiology
  • Calibration
  • Chickens
  • Cochlea / physiology*
  • Ear Canal / physiology
  • Electrophysiology
  • Sound Localization / physiology*
  • Time Factors