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Auditory brainstem correlates of basilar membrane nonlinearity in humans

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


Journal publication date2009
JournalAudiology and Neurotology
Number of pages10
Original languageEnglish


A behavioral measure of the basilar membrane response can be obtained by comparing the growth in forward masking for maskers at, and well below, the signal frequency. Since the off-frequency masker is assumed to be processed linearly at the signal place, the difference in masking growth with level is thought to reflect the compressive response to the on-frequency masker. The present experiment used an electrophysiological analog of this technique, based on measurements of the latency of wave V of the auditory brain-stem response elicited by a 4-kHz, 4-ms pure tone, presented at 65 dB SPL. Responses were obtained in quiet and in the presence of either an on-frequency (4 kHz) or an off-frequency (1.8 kHz) pure-tone forward masker. Wave V latency increased with masker level, although the increase was greater for the off-frequency masker than for the on-frequency masker, consistent with a more compressive response to the latter. Response functions generated from the data showed the characteristic shape, with a nearly linear response at lower levels and 4: 1 compression at higher levels. However, the breakpoint between the linear region and the compressive region was at about 60 dB SPL, higher than expected on the basis of previous physiological and psychophysical measures.