Effects of masker frequency and duration in forward masking: Further evidence for the influence of peripheral nonlinearity

Andrew J. Oxenham, Christopher J. Plack

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


Forward masking has often been thought of in terms of neural adaptation, with nonlinearities in the growth and decay of forward masking being accounted for by the nonlinearities inherent in adaptation. In contrast, this study presents further evidence for the hypothesis that forward masking can be described as a linear process, once peripheral, mechanical nonlinearities are taken into account. The first experiment compares the growth of masking for on- and off-frequency maskers. Signal thresholds were measured as a function of masker level for three masker-signal intervals of 0, 10, and 30 ms. The brief 4-kHz sinusoidal signal was masked by a 200-ms sinusoidal forward masker which had a frequency of either 2.4 kHz (off-frequency) or 4 kHz (on-frequency). As in previous studies, for the on-frequency condition, the slope of the function relating signal threshold to masker level became shallower as the delay between the masker and signal was increased. In contrast, the slopes for the off-frequency condition were independent of masker-signal delay and had a value of around unity, indicating linear growth of masking for all masker-signal delays. In the second experiment, a broadband Gaussian noise forward masker was used to mask a brief 6-kHz sinusoidal signal. The spectrum level of the masker was either 0 or 40 dB (re: 20 μPa). The gap between the masker and signal was either 0 or 20 ms. Signal thresholds were measured for masker durations from 5 to 200 ms. The effect of masker duration was found to depend more on signal level than on gap duration or masker level. Overall, the results support the idea that forward masking can be modeled as a linear process, preceded by a static nonlinearity resembling that found on the basilar membrane. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science B.V.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)258-266
Number of pages9
JournalHearing Research
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Nov 25 2000


  • Cochlear nonlinearity
  • Forward masking
  • Temporal processing

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