The rate responses of auditory nerve fibers were measured for best frequency (BF) tone bursts in the presence of continuous background noise. Rate functions for BF tones were constructed over a 32-dB range of levels, centered on the behavioral masked thresholds of cats. The tone level at which noticeable rate changes are evoked by the tones corresponds closely to behavioral masked threshold at all noise levels used (— 10- to 30-dB spectrum level). As the noise level increases, the response rate to the background noise approaches saturation, and the incremental rate response to tones decreases. At high noise levels, the rate responses to tones of low and medium spontaneous rate fibers are larger than those of high spontaneous rate fibers. Empirical statistics of auditory nerve fiber spike counts are reported; these differ from those expected of a Poisson process in that the variance is smaller than the mean. A new measure of discharge rate is described that allows rate changes to be expressed in units of a standard deviation. This measure allows tone-evoked responses to be interpreted in terms of their detectability in a signal detection task. Rate responses of low and medium spontaneous rate fibers are more detectable than those of high spontaneous rate fibers, especially at high noise levels. There appears to be sufficient information in the rate response of a small number of auditory nerve fibers to support behaviorally observed levels of detection performance.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
- Acoustics and Ultrasonics