Research in Engineering and Aviation

Behavior and modeling of two-dimensional precedence effect in headunrestrained cats

August 1, 2015

Authors: Gai, Y., Ruhland, J.L., Yin, T.C. T.

Journal of Neurophysiology, Vol. 114 no. 2, pp. 1272-1285. August 1, 2015. DOI: 10.1152/jn.00214.2015 


The precedence effect (PE) is an auditory illusion that occurs when listeners localize nearly coincident and similar sounds from different spatial locations, such as a direct sound and its echo. It has mostly been studied in humans and animals with immobile heads in the horizontal plane; speaker pairs were often symmetrically located in the frontal hemifield. The present study examined the PE in head-unrestrained cats for a variety of paired-sound conditions along the horizontal, vertical, and diagonal axes. Cats were trained with operant conditioning to direct their gaze to the perceived sound location. Stereotypical PE-like behaviors were observed for speaker pairs placed in azimuth or diagonally in the frontal hemifield as the interstimulus delay was varied. For speaker pairs in the median sagittal plane, no clear PE-like behavior occurred. Interestingly, when speakers were placed diagonally in front of the cat, certain PE-like behavior emerged along the vertical dimension. However, PE-like behavior was not observed when both speakers were located in the left hemifield. A Hodgkin-Huxley model was used to simulate responses of neurons in the medial superior olive (MSO) to sound pairs in azimuth. The novel simulation incorporated a low-threshold potassium current and frequency mismatches to generate internal delays. The model exhibited distinct PE-like behavior, such as summing localization and localization dominance. The simulation indicated that certain encoding of the PE could have occurred before information reaches the inferior colliculus, and MSO neurons with binaural inputs having mismatched characteristic frequencies may play an important role.