The combined effects of forward masking by noise and high click rate on monaural and binaural human auditory nerve and brainstem potentials

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To study effects of forward masking and rapid stimulation on human monaurally- and binaurally-evoked brainstem potentials and suggest their relation to synaptic fatigue and recovery and to neuronal action potential refractoriness.


Auditory brainstem evoked potentials (ABEPs) were recorded from 12 normally- and symmetrically hearing adults, in response to each click (50 dB nHL, condensation and rarefaction) in a train of nine, with an inter-click interval of 11 ms, that followed a white noise burst of 100 ms duration (50 dB nHL). Sequences of white noise and click train were repeated at a rate of 2.89 s−1. The interval between noise and first click in the train was 2, 11, 22, 44, 66 or 88 ms in different runs. ABEPs were averaged (8000 repetitions) using a dwell time of 25 μs/address/channel. The binaural interaction components (BICs) of ABEPs were derived and the single, centrally located equivalent dipoles of ABEP waves I and V and of the BIC major wave were estimated.


The latencies of dipoles I and V of ABEP, their inter-dipole interval and the dipole magnitude of component V were significantly affected by the interval between noise and clicks and by the serial position of the click in the train. The latency and dipole magnitude of the major BIC component were significantly affected by the interval between noise and clicks. Interval from noise and the click's serial position in the train interacted to affect dipole V latency, dipole V magnitude, BIC latencies and the V–I inter-dipole latency difference. Most of the effects were fully apparent by the first few clicks in the train, and the trend (increase or decrease) was affected by the interval between noise and clicks.


The changes in latency and magnitude of ABEP and BIC components with advancing position in the click train and the interactions of click position in the train with the intervals from noise indicate an interaction of fatigue and recovery, compatible with synaptic depletion and replenishing, respectively. With the 2 ms interval between noise and the first click in the train, neuronal action potential refractoriness may also be involved.

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