Psychophysical correlates of contralateral efferent suppression. I. The role of the medial olivocochlear system in "central masking" in nonhuman primates.
An extensive physiological literature, including experimental and clinical studies in humans, demonstrates that activation of the medial olivocochlear (MOC) efferent system, by either contralateral sound or electrical stimulation, can produce significant alterations in cochlear function and suggests a role for the MOC system in influencing the auditory behavior of binaural hearing. The present data are from psychophysical studies in nonhuman primates which seek to determine if the noted physiological changes in response to contralateral acoustic stimulation have a perceptual counterpart. Four juvenile Japanese macaques were trained to respond to the presence of 1-s sinusoids, presented to the test ear, in an operant reinforcement paradigm. Thresholds were compared for frequencies ranging from 1.0 to 4.0 kHz in quiet, with thresholds measured when continuous, two octave-band noise, centered on the test tone frequency, was presented in the contralateral ear. Contralateral noise was presented at levels of 10-60 dB above detection threshold for the test-tone frequency. While some variability was evident across subjects, both in the frequency distribution and magnitude (as a function of contralateral noise level), all subjects exhibited an increase, or suppression of thresholds in the presence of contralateral noise. On average, thresholds increased systematically with contralateral noise level, to a peak of 7 dB. In one subject, the threshold increase seen with contralateral noise was significantly reduced when the MOC was surgically sectioned on the floor of the IVth ventricle. The characteristics of the measured shifts in behavioral thresholds, in the presence of contralateral noise reported here, are qualitatively and quantitatively similar to both efferent physiological suppression effects and psychophysical central masking threshold shifts which have been reported previously. These data suggest that at least some aspects of "central masking" are efferent-mediated peripheral processes, and that the term "central masking" may be incorrect.
Smith, DW; Turner, DA; Henson, MM
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