Cellular mechanisms for resolving phase ambiguity in the owl's inferior colliculus

José Luis Peña, Masakazu Konishi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Both mammals and birds use the interaural time difference (ITD) for localization of sound in the horizontal plane. They may localize either real or phantom sound sources, when the signal consists of a narrow frequency band. This ambiguity does not occur with broadband signals. A plot of impulse rates or amplitude of excitatory postsynaptic potentials against ITDs (ITD curve) consists of peaks and troughs. In the external nucleus (ICX) of the owl's inferior colliculus, ITD curves show multiple peaks when the signal is narrow-band, such as tones. Of these peaks, one occurs at ITDi, which is independent of frequency, and others at ITDi ± T, where T is the tonal period. The ITD curve of the same neuron shows a large peak (main peak) at ITDi and no or small peaks (side peaks) at ITDi ± T, when the signal is broadband. ITD curves for postsynaptic potentials indicate that ICX neurons integrate the results of binaural cross-correlation in different frequency bands. However, the difference between the main and side peaks is small. ICX neurons further enhance this difference in the process of converting membrane potentials to impulse rates. Inhibition also appears to augment the difference between the main and side peaks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11787-11792
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number22
StatePublished - Oct 24 2000
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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