1. We have studied auditory responses to a set of speech-related narrowband sounds, single-formant stimuli (SFSs), in populations of auditory nerve fibers (ANFs). An analytic method was developed to extract the envelope of temporal discharge patterns of the ANF responses to nonsinusoidally modulated stimuli, whose spectra have multiple clusters of components. Such responses are often encountered in the auditory system when complex stimuli are used and have traditionally been studied by analyzing the fundamental component of the responses. 2. The envelope modulation in the SFSs is shown to be represented by the response patterns of ANFs. When the whole ANF population is considered, the information on modulation in stimulus envelope does not disappear at the highest sound level tested at all best frequencies (BFs) we studied (1-10 kHz). The representation is the best at medium sound levels and degrades at high sound levels. Low/medium-spontaneous rate (SR) ANFs showed greater envelope modulation in their responses at high sound levels than do high-SR ANFs. The quality of the representation at high sound levels is, on average, proportional to BF threshold of an ANF. On the basis of populations of ANFs with all SRs, the envelope modulation in the SFSs is represented over a wide range of sound levels. 3. We found that low-BF ANFs differ from high-BF ANFs in representing envelope modulation in the SFSs. For ANFs with BFs less than ~6 kHz, information on stimulus envelope is not only contained in spectral components near direct current but also in components at the vicinities of frequencies equal to BF and its multiples. In fact, for ANFs with BFs <3 kHz, the contribution from spectral components centered at BF to overall response modulation is greater than that from spectral components near direct current. These findings indicate that, by using measures solely based on the fundamental component, the amount of modulation in the responses to narrowband stimuli is underestimated for low-BF ANFs. 4. Off-BF stimulation of ANFs with SFSs was found to result in increased envelope modulation in responses at high sound levels. The further away the stimulus is centered relative to unit BF, the greater the modulation it induces, provided that the stimulus is capable of exciting the unit. An SFS centered as close as 15% off unit BF can produce a significant increase in the modulation of responses at very high sound levels. Therefore ANFs whose BFs differ from the center frequency of narrowband stimuli provide additional sources of envelope modulation at high sound levels. 5. Detailed analysis of response envelope showed that low/medium-SR ANFs differ systematically from high-SR ANFs in coding SFSs. Besides having higher modulation, low/medium-SR ANFs were found to have a higher envelope peak height and a lower envelope minimum at high sound levels. In addition, the envelope latency is longer in low/medium-SR ANFs than in high-SR ANFs. These results have direct implications for convergence configurations at the cochlear nucleus.
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