Increased reliance on temporal coding when target sound is softer than the background

Nima Alamatsaz, Merri J. Rosen, Antje Ihlefeld

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Everyday environments often contain multiple concurrent sound sources that fluctuate over time. Normally hearing listeners can benefit from high signal-to-noise ratios (SNRs) in energetic dips of temporally fluctuating background sound, a phenomenon called dip-listening. Specialized mechanisms of dip-listening exist across the entire auditory pathway. Both the instantaneous fluctuating and the long-term overall SNR shape dip-listening. An unresolved issue regarding cortical mechanisms of dip-listening is how target perception remains invariant to overall SNR, specifically, across different tone levels with an ongoing fluctuating masker. Equivalent target detection over both positive and negative overall SNRs (SNR invariance) is reliably achieved in highly-trained listeners. Dip-listening is correlated with the ability to resolve temporal fine structure, which involves temporally-varying spike patterns. Thus the current work tests the hypothesis that at negative SNRs, neuronal readout mechanisms need to increasingly rely on decoding strategies based on temporal spike patterns, as opposed to spike count. Recordings from chronically implanted electrode arrays in core auditory cortex of trained and awake Mongolian gerbils that are engaged in a tone detection task in 10 Hz amplitude-modulated background sound reveal that rate-based decoding is not SNR-invariant, whereas temporal coding is informative at both negative and positive SNRs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number4457
JournalScientific reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


  • Auditory cortex
  • Central masking
  • Dip-listening
  • Gerbil
  • Modulation masking release
  • SNR invariance
  • Signal-to-noise ratio


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