Behavioral sensitivity to interaural time differences in the rabbit

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An important cue for sound localization and separation of signals from noise is the interaural time difference (ITD). Humans are able to localize sounds within 1–2° and can detect very small changes in the ITD (10–20 μs). In contrast, many animals localize sounds with less precision than humans. Rabbits, for example, have sound localization thresholds of ∼22°. There is only limited information about behavioral ITD discrimination in animals with poor sound localization acuity that are typically used for the neural recordings. For this study, we measured behavioral discrimination of ITDs in the rabbit for a range of reference ITDs from 0 to ±300 μs. The behavioral task was conditioned avoidance and the stimulus was band-limited noise (500–1500 Hz). Across animals, the average discrimination threshold was 50–60 μs for reference ITDs of 0 to ±200 μs. There was no trend in the thresholds across this range of reference ITDs. For a reference ITD of ±300 μs, which is near the limit of the physiological window defined by the head width in this species, the discrimination threshold increased to ∼100 μs. The ITD discrimination in rabbits less acute than in cats, which have a similar head size. This result supports the suggestion that ITD discrimination, like sound localization [see Heffner, 1997. Acta Otolaryngol. 532 (Suppl.), 46–53] is determined by factors other than head size.

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