In this study we aim to resolve the contributions of facilitation and refractoriness at very short pulse intervals. Measurements of the refractory properties of the electrically evoked compound action potential (ECAP) of the auditory nerve in cochlear implant (CI) users at inter pulse intervals below 300 μs are influenced by facilitation and recovery effects. ECAPs were recorded using masker pulses with a wide range of current levels relative to the probe pulse levels, for three suprathreshold probe levels and pulse intervals from 13 to 200 μs. Evoked potentials were measured for 21 CI patients by using the masked response extraction artifact cancellation procedure.
During analysis of the measurements the stimulation current was not used as absolute value, but in relation to the patient's individual ECAP threshold. This enabled a more general approach to describe facilitation as a probe level independent effect. Maximum facilitation was found for all tested inter pulse intervals at masker levels near patient's individual ECAP threshold, independent from probe level. For short inter pulse intervals an increased N1P1 amplitude was measured for subthreshold masker levels down to 120 CL below patient's individual ECAP threshold in contrast to the recreated state.
ECAPs recorded with inter pulse intervals up to 200 μs are influenced by facilitation and recovery. Facilitation effects are most pronounced for masker levels at or below ECAP threshold, while recovery effects increase with higher masker levels above ECAP threshold. The local maximum of the ECAP amplitude for masker levels around ECAP threshold can be explained by the mutual influence of maximum facilitation and minimal refractoriness.