Objective measures of neural processing of interaural time differences

David McAlpine*, Nicholas Haywood, Jaime Undurraga, Torsten Marquardt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
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We assessed neural sensitivity to interaural time differences (ITDs) conveyed in the temporal fine structure (TFS) of low-frequency sounds and ITDs conveyed in the temporal envelope of amplitude-modulated (AM’ed) high-frequency sounds. Using electroencephalography (EEG), we recorded brain activity to sounds in which the interaural phase difference (IPD) of the TFS (or the modulated temporal envelope) was repeatedly switched between leading in one ear or the other. When the amplitude of the tones is modulated equally in the two ears at 41 Hz, the interaural phase modulation (IPM) evokes an IPM following-response (IPM-FR) in the EEG signal. For low-frequency signals, IPM-FRs were reliably obtained, and largest for an IPM rate of 6.8 Hz and when IPD switches (around 0°) were in the range 45–90°. IPDs conveyed in envelope of high-frequency tones also generated IPM-FRs; response maxima occurred for IPDs switched between 0° and 180° IPD. This is consistent with the interpretation that distinct binaural mechanisms generate the IPM-FR at low and high frequencies, and with the reported physiological responses of medial superior olive (MSO) and lateral superior olive (LSO) neurons in other mammals. Low-frequency binaural neurons in the MSO are considered maximally activated by IPDs in the range 45–90°, consistent with their reception of excitatory inputs from both ears. High-frequency neurons in the LSO receive excitatory and inhibitory input from the two ears receptively—as such maximum activity occurs when the sounds at the two ears are presented out of phase.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)197-205
Number of pages9
JournalAdvances in Experimental Medicine and Biology
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes

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.


  • Electroencephalography
  • Frequencyfollowing response
  • Interaural phase modulation
  • Objective measures


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