Neural representation of interaural time differences in humans-an objective measure that matches behavioural performance

Jaime A. Undurraga*, Nick R. Haywood, Torsten Marquardt, David McAlpine

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)
51 Downloads (Pure)


Humans, and many other species, exploit small differences in the timing of sounds at the two ears (interaural time difference, ITD) to locate their source and to enhance their detection in background noise. Despite their importance in everyday listening tasks, however, the neural representation of ITDs in human listeners remains poorly understood, and few studies have assessed ITD sensitivity to a similar resolution to that reported perceptually. Here, we report an objective measure of ITD sensitivity in electroencephalography (EEG) signals to abrupt modulations in the interaural phase of amplitude-modulated low-frequency tones. Specifically, we measured following responses to amplitude-modulated sinusoidal signals (520-Hz carrier) in which the stimulus phase at each ear was manipulated to produce discrete interaural phase modulations at minima in the modulation cycle—interaural phase modulation following responses (IPM-FRs). The depth of the interaural phase modulation (IPM) was defined by the sign and the magnitude of the interaural phase difference (IPD) transition which was symmetric around zero. Seven IPM depths were assessed over the range of ±22 ° to ±157 °, corresponding to ITDs largely within the range experienced by human listeners under natural listening conditions (120 to 841 μs). The magnitude of the IPM-FR was maximal for IPM depths in the range of ±67.6 ° to ±112.6 ° and correlated well with performance in a behavioural experiment in which listeners were required to discriminate sounds containing IPMs from those with only static IPDs. The IPM-FR provides a sensitive measure of binaural processing in the human brain and has a potential to assess temporal binaural processing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)591-607
Number of pages17
JournalJARO - Journal of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2016

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2016. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • behavioural measures
  • ethological range
  • interaural time difference
  • interaural time sensitivity
  • objective measures


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