Detectability index measures of binaural masking level difference across populations of inferior colliculus neurons

Dan Jiang, David McAlpine, Alan R. Palmer*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Citations (Scopus)


In everyday life we continually need to detect signals against a background of interfering noise (the 'cocktail party effect'): a task that is much easier to accomplish using two ears. The binaural masking level difference (BMLD) measures the ability of listeners to use a difference in binaural attributes to segregate sound sources and thus improve their discriminability against interfering noises. By computing the detectability of tones from rate-versus-level functions in the presence of a suprathreshold noise, we previously demonstrated that individual low-frequency delay- sensitive neurons in the inferior colliculus are able to show BMLDs. Here we consider the responses of a population of such neurons when the noise level is held constant (as conventionally in psychophysical paradigms). We have sampled the responses of 121 units in the inferior colliculi of five guinea pigs to identical noise and 500 Hz tones at both ears (NoSo) and to identical noise but with the 500 Hz tone at one ear inverted (NoSπ). The result suggests that the neurons subserving detection of So tones in No (identical noise at the two ears) noise are those neurons with best frequencies (BFs) close to 500 Hz that respond to So tones with an increase in their discharge rate from that attributable to the noise. The detection of the inverted (Sπ) signal is also attributable to neurons with BFs close to 500 Hz. However, among these neurons, the presence of the Sπ tone was indicated by an increased discharge rate in some neurons and by a decreased discharge rate in others.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9331-9339
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number23
Publication statusPublished - 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • Binaural masking level difference
  • Detectability index
  • Inferior colliculus
  • Interaural delay sensitivity
  • Masked threshold
  • Rate level function


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