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Rate dependent neural responses of interaural-time-difference cues in fine-structure and envelope.

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Hu, Hongmei 
Ewert, Stephan D 
Kollmeier, Birger 


Advancements in cochlear implants (CIs) have led to a significant increase in bilateral CI users, especially among children. Yet, most bilateral CI users do not fully achieve the intended binaural benefit due to potential limitations in signal processing and/or surgical implant positioning. One crucial auditory cue that normal hearing (NH) listeners can benefit from is the interaural time difference (ITD), i.e., the time difference between the arrival of a sound at two ears. The ITD sensitivity is thought to be heavily relying on the effective utilization of temporal fine structure (very rapid oscillations in sound). Unfortunately, most current CIs do not transmit such true fine structure. Nevertheless, bilateral CI users have demonstrated sensitivity to ITD cues delivered through envelope or interaural pulse time differences, i.e., the time gap between the pulses delivered to the two implants. However, their ITD sensitivity is significantly poorer compared to NH individuals, and it further degrades at higher CI stimulation rates, especially when the rate exceeds 300 pulse per second. The overall purpose of this research thread is to improve spatial hearing abilities in bilateral CI users. This study aims to develop electroencephalography (EEG) paradigms that can be used with clinical settings to assess and optimize the delivery of ITD cues, which are crucial for spatial hearing in everyday life. The research objective of this article was to determine the effect of CI stimulation pulse rate on the ITD sensitivity, and to characterize the rate-dependent degradation in ITD perception using EEG measures. To develop protocols for bilateral CI studies, EEG responses were obtained from NH listeners using sinusoidal-amplitude-modulated (SAM) tones and filtered clicks with changes in either fine structure ITD (ITDFS) or envelope ITD (ITDENV). Multiple EEG responses were analyzed, which included the subcortical auditory steady-state responses (ASSRs) and cortical auditory evoked potentials (CAEPs) elicited by stimuli onset, offset, and changes. Results indicated that acoustic change complex (ACC) responses elicited by ITDENV changes were significantly smaller or absent compared to those elicited by ITDFS changes. The ACC morphologies evoked by ITDFS changes were similar to onset and offset CAEPs, although the peak latencies were longest for ACC responses and shortest for offset CAEPs. The high-frequency stimuli clearly elicited subcortical ASSRs, but smaller than those evoked by lower carrier frequency SAM tones. The 40-Hz ASSRs decreased with increasing carrier frequencies. Filtered clicks elicited larger ASSRs compared to high-frequency SAM tones, with the order being 40 > 160 > 80> 320 Hz ASSR for both stimulus types. Wavelet analysis revealed a clear interaction between detectable transient CAEPs and 40-Hz ASSRs in the time-frequency domain for SAM tones with a low carrier frequency.



Acoustic change response, Auditory steady-state response, Cochlear implant, Cortical auditory evoked potential, Interaural phase difference, P1-N1-P2 complex, Spatial hearing, Humans, Cues, Electroencephalography, Cochlear Implants, Acoustic Stimulation, Sound Localization, Auditory Perception, Evoked Potentials, Auditory, Time Factors

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Medical Research Council (MR/S002537/1)
National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) (via Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust) (201608)