The effects of notched noise on intensity discrimination under forward masking

C. J. Plack, N. F. Viemeister

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    Zeng et al. [Hear. Res. 55, 223-230 (1991)] reported that at moderate levels there is an increase in the intensity jnd for 25-ms sinusoidal pedestals presented 100 ms after an intense narrow-band noise. They suggested that this effect is related to the finding that low spontaneous rate (SR) auditory-nerve neurons take a considerable time to recover from adaptation [E. M. Relkin and J. R. Doucet, Hear. Res. 55, 215-222 (1991)]: 100 ms after the noise, the low-SR neurons still have elevated thresholds. Therefore, the intensity of a pedestal falling between the saturation level of the high-SR neurons and the elevated threshold of the low-SR neurons will be poorly represented in neutral firing rates, and the jnd will be high. A problem with this interpretation is that subjects may listen 'off frequency.' Theoretically, it should always be possible to choose a frequency channel for which the pedestal level is within the dynamic range of the high-SR neurons. In the present study, the experiment of Zeng et al. was replicated but with the pedestal presented in the temporal center of a notched noise to prevent off-frequency listening. Surprisingly, the notched noise substantially decreased the jnd at mid levels, removing or severely reducing the mid-level jnd elevation. This was true for pedestal frequencies of 1 and 6 kHz. It was also found that even if the notched noise was terminated before pedestal onset the jnd elevation was reduced. This suggests that the effect of the notched noise is not due to suppression. Finally, it was found that gating the notched noise with the pedestal was also sufficient to reduce the jnd elevation. This argues against an explanation for the effect of the notched noise in terms of adaptation. The effect of the notched noise on intensity discrimination is hard to explain on the basis of events occurring at the level of the auditory nerve. Because the notched noise obviously does more than limit off-frequency listening, the role of this latter process in the original Zeng et al. experiment is still unclear.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1902-1910
    Number of pages8
    JournalJournal of the Acoustical Society of America
    Issue number4 I
    Publication statusPublished - 1992


    • Adult
    • physiology: Attention
    • physiology: Auditory Threshold
    • Humans
    • physiology: Loudness Perception
    • physiology: Neurons
    • Noise
    • physiology: Perceptual Masking
    • physiology: Pitch Perception
    • Psychoacoustics
    • Reference Values
    • physiology: Vestibulocochlear Nerve


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