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Unanesthetized auditory cortex exhibits multiple codes for gaps in cochlear implant pulse trains

  • Author(s): Kirby, AE
  • Middlebrooks, JC
  • et al.
Abstract

Cochlear implant listeners receive auditory stimulation through amplitude-modulated electric pulse trains. Auditory nerve studies in animals demonstrate qualitatively different patterns of firing elicited by low versus high pulse rates, suggesting that stimulus pulse rate might influence the transmission of temporal information through the auditory pathway. We tested in awake guinea pigs the temporal acuity of auditory cortical neurons for gaps in cochlear implant pulse trains. Consistent with results using anesthetized conditions, temporal acuity improved with increasing pulse rates. Unlike the anesthetized condition, however, cortical neurons responded in the awake state to multiple distinct features of the gap-containing pulse trains, with the dominant features varying with stimulus pulse rate. Responses to the onset of the trailing pulse train (Trail- ON) provided the most sensitive gap detection at 1,017 and 4,069 pulse-per-second (pps) rates, particularly for short (25 ms) leading pulse trains. In contrast, under conditions of 254 pps rate and long (200 ms) leading pulse trains, a sizeable fraction of units demonstrated greater temporal acuity in the form of robust responses to the offsets of the leading pulse train (Lead-OFF). Finally, TONIC responses exhibited decrements in firing rate during gaps, but were rarely the most sensitive feature. Unlike results from anesthetized conditions,temporal acuity of the most sensitive units was nearly as sharp for brief as for long leading bursts. The differences in stimulus coding across pulse rates likely originate from pulse rate-dependent variations in adaptation in the auditory nerve. Two marked differences from responses to acoustic stimulation were: first, Trail-ON responses to 4,069 pps trains encoded substantially shorter gaps than have been observed with acoustic stimuli; and second, the Lead-OFF gap coding seen for G15 ms gaps in 254 pps stimuli is not seen in responses to sounds. The current results may help to explain why moderate pulse rates around 1,000 pps are favored by many cochlear implant listeners. © 2011 The Author(s). This article is published with open access at Springerlink.com.

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