Journal of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology vol:15 pages:203-218
Temporal differences between the two ears are critical for spatial hearing. They can be described along axes of interaural time difference (ITD) and interaural correlation, and their processing starts in the brainstem with the convergence of monaural pathways which are tuned in frequency and which carry temporal information. In previous studies, we examined the bandwidth (BW) of frequency tuning at two stages: the auditory nerve (AN) and inferior colliculus (IC), and showed that BW depends on characteristic frequency (CF) but that there is no difference in the mean BW of these two structures when measured in a binaural, temporal framework. This suggested that there is little frequency convergence in the ITD pathway between AN and IC and that frequency selectivity determined by the cochlear filter is preserved up to the IC. Unexpectedly, we found that AN and IC neurons can be similar in CF and BW, yet responses to changes in interaural correlation in the IC were different than expected from coincidence patterns ("pseudo-binaural" responses) in the AN. To better understand this, we here examine the responses of bushy cells, which provide monaural inputs to binaural neurons. Using broadband noise, we measured BW and correlation sensitivity in the cat trapezoid body (TB), which contains the axons of bushy cells. This allowed us to compare these two metrics at three stages in the ITD pathway. We found that BWs in the TB are similar to those in the AN and IC. However, TB neurons were found to be more sensitive to changes in stimulus correlation than AN or IC neurons. This is consistent with findings that show that TB fibers are more temporally precise than AN fibers, but is surprising because it suggests that the temporal information available monaurally is not fully exploited binaurally.