Efferent modulation of pre-neural and neural distortion products

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Distortion product otoacoustic emissions (DPOAEs) and distortion product frequency following responses (DPFFRs) are respectively pre-neural and neural measurements associated with cochlear nonlinearity. Because cochlear nonlinearity is putatively linked to outer hair cell electromotility, DPOAEs and DPFFRs may provide complementary measurements of the human medial olivocochlear (MOC) reflex, which directly modulates outer hair cell function. In this study, we first quantified MOC reflex-induced DPOAE inhibition at spectral fine structure peaks in 22 young human adults with normal hearing. The f1 and f2 tone pairs producing the largest DPOAE fine structure peak for each subject were then used to evoke DPFFRs with and without MOC reflex activation to provide a related neural measure of efferent inhibition. We observed significant positive relationships between DPOAE fine structure peak inhibition and inhibition of DPFFR components representing neural phase locking to f2 and 2f1-f2, but not f1. These findings may support previous observations that the MOC reflex inhibits DPOAE sources differentially. That these effects are maintained and represented in the auditory brainstem suggests that the MOC reflex may exert a potent influence on subsequent subcortical neural representation of sound.HIGHLIGHTSWe examined relationships between pre-neural DPOAE and neural DPFFR inhibition with contralateral noise.Both responses were inhibited with contralateral noise.DPOAE inhibition was related to inhibition of DPFFR components corresponding to f2 and 2f1-f2 frequencies.Results provide evidence of neural consequences of efferent inhibition, which has mainly been tested with pre-neural assays.

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