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Relationship Between Behavioral and Physiological Spectral-Ripple Discrimination

Previous studies have found a significant correlation between spectral-ripple discrimination and speech and music perception in cochlear implant (CI) users. This relationship could be of use to clinicians and scientists who are interested in using spectral-ripple stimuli in the assessment and habilitation of CI users. However, previous psychoacoustic tasks used to assess spectral discrimination are not suitable for all populations, and it would be beneficial to develop methods that could be used to test all age ranges, including pediatric implant users. Additionally, it is important to understand how ripple stimuli are processed in the central auditory system and how their neural representation contributes to behavioral performance. For this reason, we developed a single-interval, yes/no paradigm that could potentially be used both behaviorally and electrophysiologically to estimate spectral-ripple threshold. In experiment 1, behavioral thresholds obtained using the single-interval method were compared to thresholds obtained using a previously established three-alternative forced-choice method. A significant correlation was found (r = 0.84, p = 0.0002) in 14 adult CI users. The spectral-ripple threshold obtained using the new method also correlated with speech perception in quiet and noise. In experiment 2, the effect of the number of vocoder-processing channels on the behavioral and physiological threshold in normal-hearing listeners was determined. Behavioral thresholds, using the new single-interval method, as well as cortical P1-N1-P2 responses changed as a function of the number of channels. Better behavioral and physiological performance (i.e., better discrimination ability at higher ripple densities) was observed as more channels added. In experiment 3, the relationship between behavioral and physiological data was examined. Amplitudes of the P1-N1-P2 “change” responses were significantly correlated with d′ values from the single-interval behavioral procedure. Results suggest that the single-interval procedure with spectral-ripple phase inversion in ongoing stimuli is a valid approach for measuring behavioral or physiological spectral resolution.

from JARO