The role of cochlear place coding in the perception of frequency modulation

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16 Scopus citations


Natural sounds convey information via frequency and amplitude modulations (FM and AM). Humans are acutely sensitive to the slow rates of FM that are crucial for speech and music. This sensitivity has long been thought to rely on precise stimulus-driven auditory-nerve spike timing (time code), whereas a coarser code, based on variations in the cochlear place of stimulation (place code), represents faster FM rates. We tested this theory in listeners with normal and impaired hearing, spanning a wide range of place-coding fidelity. Contrary to predictions, sensitivity to both slow and fast FM correlated with place-coding fidelity. We also used incoherent AM on two carriers to simulate place coding of FM and observed poorer sensitivity at high carrier frequencies and fast rates, two properties of FM detection previously ascribed to the limits of time coding. The results suggest a unitary place-based neural code for FM across all rates and carrier frequencies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere58468
Pages (from-to)1-64
Number of pages64
StatePublished - Sep 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
center frequencies. This interpretation is partly supported by a computational modeling study

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, eLife Sciences Publications Ltd. All rights reserved.


  • Amplitude modulation
  • Auditory perception
  • Hearing
  • Hearing loss
  • Phase locking


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