The basic function of the auditory system is to allow listeners to detect signals. This needs to happen in both quiet and noisy environments. The ability to detect sounds in noisy environments is compromised in the elderly and the hearing impaired, even with assistive hearing devices. The goal of this project is to determine the neuronal mechanisms in the cochlear nucleus (CN) and inferior colliculus (IC) of primates that mediate detection in quiet and noisy environments. Detection in noise depends on auditory efferent pathways that are fully functional only in awake and behaving organisms. Primates are the choice for this study due to their phylogenetic similarity with humans, as well as the similarity of the primate and human brainstem, which are different from other mammals. Studies in auditory and other sensory system have shown that responses to signals in noise are enhanced by inhibitory influences that suppress the effects of the noise while allowing the signal response to be expressed. Local processing within the IC increases the inhibition, specially wideband inhibition, which cancels the responses to noise while maintaining responses to signals, and mediating detection, thereby rendering ICC responses better related to IC responses than CN. This project proposes to test these hypotheses by recoding single unit responses in the cochlear nucleus and inferior colliculus in awake and behaving primates, and relating them to simultaneously measured behavioral responses. Overall, this study will help determine some of the mechanisms that allow us to detect and perceive sounds in natural environments.

Public Health Relevance

Experiments described in this proposal are designed to investigate the neurophysiological responses to sounds in noise, and their correlation with simultaneously measured detection performance in awake and behaving primates. These studies will lay the foundation for future studies investigating the response changes in the auditory system after hearing loss, and for those investigating the neurophysiological basis of acoustical scene analysis. Finally, evaluation of response properties and the correlations between neurons and behavior at two connected sub-cortical areas will allow us a better understanding of sub-cortical circuitry in the auditory system, and signal processing strategies used by the brain in general, and will help in the design and placement of sub-cortical assistive hearing implants.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)
Research Project (R01)
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Study Section
Auditory System Study Section (AUD)
Program Officer
Platt, Christopher
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Vanderbilt University Medical Center
Schools of Medicine
United States
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Burton, Jane A; Dylla, Margit E; Ramachandran, Ramnarayan (2018) Frequency selectivity in macaque monkeys measured using a notched-noise method. Hear Res 357:73-80
Rocchi, Francesca; Dylla, Margit E; Bohlen, Peter A et al. (2017) Spatial and temporal disparity in signals and maskers affects signal detection in non-human primates. Hear Res 344:1-12
Bohlen, Peter; Dylla, Margit; Timms, Courtney et al. (2014) Detection of modulated tones in modulated noise by non-human primates. J Assoc Res Otolaryngol 15:801-21
Dylla, Margit; Hrnicek, Andrew; Rice, Christopher et al. (2013) Detection of tones and their modification by noise in nonhuman primates. J Assoc Res Otolaryngol 14:547-60