Cross-correlation in the auditory coincidence detectors of owls

Brian J. Fischer, G. Björn Christianson, José Luis Peña

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Interaural time difference (ITD) plays a central role in many auditory functions, most importantly in sound localization. The classic model for how ITD is computed was put forth by Jeffress (1948). One of the predictions of the Jeffress model is that the neurons that compute ITD should behave as cross-correlators. Whereas cross-correlation-like properties of the ITD-computing neurons have been reported, attempts to show that the shape of the ITD response function is determined by the spectral tuning of the neuron, a core prediction of cross-correlation, have been unsuccessful. Using reverse correlation analysis, we demonstrate in the barn owl that the relationship between the spectral tuning and the ITD response of the ITD-computing neurons is that predicted by cross-correlation. Moreover, we show that a model of coincidence detector responses derived from responses to binaurally uncorrelated noise is consistent with binaural interaction based on cross-correlation. These results are thus consistent with one of the key tenets of the Jeffress model. Our work sets forth both the methodology to answer whether cross-correlation describes coincidence detector responses and a demonstration that in the barn owl, the result is that expected by theory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8107-8115
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number32
StatePublished - Aug 6 2008


  • Barn owl
  • Coincidence detection
  • Cross-correlation
  • Interaural time difference
  • Nucleus laminaris
  • Sound localization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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