Humans can accurately localize sounds even in unfavourable signal in noise conditions. To investigate the underlying neural mechanisms, we studied the effect of background wide-band noise on neural sensitivity to variations in interaural level difference (ILD), the predominant cue for sound localization in azimuth for high-frequency sounds, at the characteristic frequency (CF) of cells in rat Inferior Colliculus (IC). Binaural noise at high levels, generally, resulted in suppression of responses (55.8 ), but at lower levels resulted in enhancement (34.8 ) as well as suppression (30.3 ). When recording conditions permitted, we then examined if any binaural noise effects were related to selective noise effects at each of the two ears, which we interpreted in light of well-known differences in input type (excitation and inhibition) from each ear shaping particular forms of ILD sensitivity in the IC. At high signal-to-noise ratios (SNRs), in most ILD functions (41 ), the effect of background noise appeared to be due to effects on inputs from both ears, while for a large percentage (35.8 ) appeared to be accounted by effects on excitatory input. However, as SNR decreased, change in excitation became the dominant contributor to the change due to binaural background noise (63.6 ). These novel findings shed light on the IC neural mechanisms for sound localization in the presence of continuous background noise. They also suggest that some effects of background noise on encoding of sound location reported to be emergent in upstream auditory areas can also be observed at the level of the midbrain. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
Mokri, Y., Worland, K., Ford, M., & Rajan, R. (2015). Effect of background noise on neuronal coding of interaural level difference cues in rat inferior colliculus. European Journal of Neuroscience, 42(1), 1685 - 1704. https://doi.org/10.1111/ejn.12914