Neural representation in the auditory midbrain of the envelope of vocalizations based on a peripheral ear model

Thilo Rode, Tanja Hartmann, Peter Hubka, Verena Scheper, Minoo Lenarz, Thomas Lenarz, Andrej Kral, Hubert H. Lim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


The auditory midbrain implant (AMI) consists of a single shank array (20 sites) for stimulation along the tonotopic axis of the central nucleus of the inferior colliculus (ICC) and has been safely implanted in deaf patients who cannot benefit from a cochlear implant (CI). The AMI improves lip-reading abilities and environmental awareness in the implanted patients. However, the AMI cannot achieve the high levels of speech perception possible with the CI. It appears the AMI can transmit sufficient spectral cues but with limited temporal cues required for speech understanding. Currently, the AMI uses a CI-based strategy, which was originally designed to stimulate each frequency region along the cochlea with amplitude-modulated pulse trains matching the envelope of the bandpass-filtered sound components. However, it is unclear if this type of stimulation with only a single site within each frequency lamina of the ICC can elicit sufficient temporal cues for speech perception. At least speech understanding in quiet is still possible with envelope cues as low as 50 Hz. Therefore, we investigated how ICC neurons follow the bandpass-filtered envelope structure of natural stimuli in ketamine-anesthetized guinea pigs. We identified a subset of ICC neurons that could closely follow the envelope structure (up to ~100 Hz) of a diverse set of species-specific calls, which was revealed by using a peripheral ear model to estimate the true bandpass-filtered envelopes observed by the brain. Although previous studies have suggested a complex neural transformation from the auditory nerve to the ICC, our data suggest that the brain maintains a robust temporal code in a subset of ICC neurons matching the envelope structure of natural stimuli. Clinically, these findings suggest that a CI-based strategy may still be effective for the AMI if the appropriate neurons are entrained to the envelope of the acoustic stimulus and can transmit sufficient temporal cues to higher centers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number166
JournalFrontiers in Neural Circuits
Issue numberOCT
StatePublished - Oct 21 2013


  • Auditory brainstem implant
  • Cochlear implant
  • Envelope
  • Inferior colliculus
  • Model
  • Phase locking
  • Speech
  • Temporal code


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