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Auditory brainstem models: adapting cochlear nuclei improve spatial encoding by the medial superior olive in reverberation

By Andrew Brughera, Jason Mikiel-Hunter, Mathias Dietz, David McAlpine

Posted 07 Jul 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/694356

Listeners perceive sound-energy as originating from the direction of its source, even as direct sound is followed milliseconds later by reflected sound from multiple different directions. Early-arriving sound is emphasised in the ascending auditory pathway, including the medial superior olive (MSO) where binaural neurons encode the interaural time difference (ITD) cue for spatial location. Behaviourally, weighting of ITD conveyed during rising sound-energy is stronger at 600 Hz, a frequency with higher reverberant energy, than at 200 Hz where reverberant energy is lower. Here we computationally explore the combined effectiveness of adaptation before ITD-encoding, and excitatory binaural coincidence detection within MSO neurons, in emphasising ITD conveyed in early-arriving sound. With excitatory inputs from adapting model spherical bushy cells (SBCs) of the bilateral cochlear nuclei, a Hodgkin-Huxley-type model MSO neuron reproduces the frequency-dependent emphasis of rising vs. peak sound-energy in ITD-encoding. Maintaining the adaptation in model SBCs, and adjusting membrane speed in model MSO neurons, hemispheric populations of model SBCs and MSO neurons, with simplified membranes for computational efficiency, also reproduce the stronger weighting of ITD information conveyed during rising sound-energy at 600 Hz compared to 200 Hz. This hemispheric model further demonstrates a link between strong weighting of spatial information during rising sound-energy, and correct unambiguous lateralisation of reverberant speech.

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