We have over 12,000 students, from over 100 countries, within one of the safest campuses in the UK


93% of Lancaster students go into work or further study within six months of graduating

Home > Research > Publications & Outputs > Subcortical neural synchrony and absolute thres...
View graph of relations

« Back

Subcortical neural synchrony and absolute thresholds predict frequency discrimination independently

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


  • F. Marmel
  • D. Linley
  • R. P. Carlyon
  • Hedwig Gockel
  • K. Hopkins
  • C. J. Plack
Journal publication date10/2013
JournalJournal of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology
Number of pages10
Original languageEnglish


The neural mechanisms of pitch coding have been debated for more than a century. The two main mechanisms are coding based on the profiles of neural firing rates across auditory nerve fibers with different characteristic frequencies (place-rate coding), and coding based on the phase-locked temporal pattern of neural firing (temporal coding). Phase locking precision can be partly assessed by recording the frequency-following response (FFR), a scalp-recorded electrophysiological response that reflects synchronous activity in subcortical neurons. Although features of the FFR have been widely used as indices of pitch coding acuity, only a handful of studies have directly investigated the relation between the FFR and behavioral pitch judgments. Furthermore, the contribution of degraded neural synchrony (as indexed by the FFR) to the pitch perception impairments of older listeners and those with hearing loss is not well known. Here, the relation between the FFR and pure-tone frequency discrimination was investigated in listeners with a wide range of ages and absolute thresholds, to assess the respective contributions of subcortical neural synchrony and other age-related and hearing loss-related mechanisms to frequency discrimination performance. FFR measures of neural synchrony and absolute thresholds independently contributed to frequency discrimination performance. Age alone, i.e., once the effect of subcortical neural synchrony measures or absolute thresholds had been partialed out, did not contribute to frequency discrimination. Overall, the results suggest that frequency discrimination of pure tones may depend both on phase locking precision and on separate mechanisms affected in hearing loss.

Bibliographic note

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and the source are credited.