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Title: Perceptual correlates of efferent modulation in the human auditory system
Author: Fletcher, Mark
ISNI:       0000 0004 5367 9010
Awarding Body: University of Nottingham
Current Institution: University of Nottingham
Date of Award: 2015
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Elicitation of the medial olivocochlear reflex (MOCR) causes a reduction in the amount of gain (amplification) applied by the cochlear amplifier. This gain-control function is thought to play an important role in speech-in-noise perception. Otoacoustic emissions (OAEs) offer a qualitative measure of the effect of the MOCR on cochlear gain, but a quantitative measure is lacking. The aim of this thesis was to test whether any of the putative perceptual correlates of MOCR-induced cochlear gain reduction might provide such a measure. The first study (Chapter 2) is concerned with the mechanism of the overshoot effect, in which a brief signal presented at the onset of a masker is harder to detect when the masker is preceded by silence than when it is preceded by a “precursor” sound. It has been suggested that, in overshoot, the precursor might reduce cochlear gain by eliciting the MOCR and thereby cause a reduction in suppressive masking of the signal (adaptation of suppression). Overshoot, suppression, and adaptation of suppression were measured in the same participants. While the precursor yielded strong overshoot, and the masker produced strong suppression, the precursor did not appear to cause any adaptation of suppression. Predictions based on an established model of the cochlear input-output function indicate that the failure to obtain any adaptation of suppression is unlikely to represent a false negative outcome. It is argued that overshoot may be due to higher-order perceptual factors such as transient masking or attentional diversion. Overshoot was therefore not pursued as a quantitative measure of the MOCR. The second study (Chapter 3) aimed to develop a quantitative measure of the MOCR by modifying the established temporal masking curve (TMC) method for estimating cochlear gain psychophysically. The TMC method involves measuring the lowest masker level needed to just render inaudible a weak signal as a function of the temporal gap between the masker and signal. Here, the masker’s duration was shortened so that the masker would not itself elicit the MOCR in time to affect the signal’s audibility. A new way of estimating cochlear gain from TMC data by fitting the entire data set with a generic model of the cochlear response function was also developed. Using this approach, the effect on cochlear gain of a broadband-noise elicitor presented to the contralateral ear was measured. The TMCs suggest that the elicitor reduced cochlear gain by 4 dB, on average. OAE suppression measurements in the same participants suggested that this gain reduction was mediated by the MOCR. The approach developed in this chapter provides a quantitative estimate of MOCR-induced cochlear-gain reduction caused by a contralateral elicitor. The third study (Chapter 4) aimed to assess the validity of recent findings by Yasin et al. (2014), who reported an MOCR-induced cochlear-gain reduction by an ipsilateral elicitor that was four times larger than that found in the second study using a contralateral elicitor. Yasin et al. (2014) estimated cochlear gain reduction using the fixed-duration masking curve (FDMC) method, which is similar to the TMC method used in Chapter 3. In Chapter 4, the FDMC method was used to estimate the amount of gain reduction caused by a long ipsilateral elicitor, like the one used by Yasin et al. (2014). This was compared to the amount of gain reduction caused by a much shorter ipsilateral elicitor, which was presented at a level that produced the same amount of masking of the signal as the long elicitor, but was too short to have activated the MOCR in time to affect the signal detectability. The long and short elicitors both caused large psychophysical effects, indicating either that the MOCR acts more quickly than previously thought, or that the effect was not due to MOCR-induced cochlear gain reduction. OAE suppression was also found for both the long and short elicitors. It is argued that both the OAE and psychophysical effects of the short and long elicitors may, at least in part, be the result of nonlinear interactions between the elicitor and the masker resulting from direct temporal overlap of their cochlear responses. This thesis provides evidence against the idea that MOCR-induced cochlear-gain reduction plays a major role in either overshoot or in a recently reported large psychophysical masking effect by an ipsilateral noise, both of which have previously been attributed to the MOCR. This thesis has also contributed towards the refinement of an approach for quantitatively measuring cochlear gain and MOCR-induced cochlear gain reduction by a contralateral noise. In future, this approach could become a valuable audiometric profiling tool, and may give insight into the individual differences that underlie hearing problems in audiometrically normal listeners. Parametric exploration of the MOCR using this approach may also allow the functional importance of the MOCR in humans to be better understood.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: QP351 Neurophysiology and neuropsychology