Variations on a Dexterous theme: Peripheral time-intensity trading

Philip X. Joris, Pascal Michelet, Tom P. Franken, Myles Mc Laughlin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Sound pressure level changes can affect the timing of spiketrains. Timing of spiketrains is critical for sensitivity to interaural timing differences (ITDs). Interaural level differences (ILDs) can therefore affect the ITD cue. It has been hypothesized that ILDs may be coded indirectly through a peripheral conversion of level to time (but it should be cautioned that the changes in phase with SPL in low-CF AN fibers of the cat are more complicated) (Jeffress, L.A., 1948. A place theory of sound localization. J. Comp. Physiol. Psychol. 41, 35-39). We tested this conversion by recording from auditory nerve fibers to broadband noise at different SPLs. For each fiber, correlograms were constructed to compare timing to fine-structure across SPLs. We find generally a decrease in the time delay between spikes and the stimulus with increasing SPL. However, the magnitudes of the shift in time are surprisingly small, and dependent on characteristic frequency (CF): the largest shifts are approximately 10 μs/dB and occur at the lowest CFs. Nevertheless, the effects of level on spike timing are systematic and of a magnitude to which the binaural system is sensitive. Thus, even though the results indicate that ILD is not traded for ITD in a simple way, the possibility that low-frequency ILDs affect the binaural percept via a peripheral level-to-time conversion cannot be excluded.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-57
Number of pages9
JournalHearing research
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Apr 2008


  • Binaural
  • Correlogram
  • Fine-structure
  • Phase-locking
  • Temporal
  • Time-intensity trading


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