Reverse Correlation Analysis of Auditory-Nerve Fiber Responses to Broadband Noise in a Bird, the Barn Owl

Bertrand Fontaine, Christine Köppl, Jose L. Peña

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


While the barn owl has been extensively used as a model for sound localization and temporal coding, less is known about the mechanisms at its sensory organ, the basilar papilla (homologous to the mammalian cochlea). In this paper, we characterize, for the first time in the avian system, the auditory nerve fiber responses to broadband noise using reverse correlation. We use the derived impulse responses to study the processing of sounds in the cochlea of the barn owl. We characterize the frequency tuning, phase, instantaneous frequency, and relationship to input level of impulse responses. We show that, even features as complex as the phase dependence on input level, can still be consistent with simple linear filtering. Where possible, we compare our results with mammalian data. We identify salient differences between the barn owl and mammals, e.g., a much smaller frequency glide slope and a bimodal impulse response for the barn owl, and discuss what they might indicate about cochlear mechanics. While important for research on the avian auditory system, the results from this paper also allow us to examine hypotheses put forward for the mammalian cochlea.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)101-119
Number of pages19
JournalJARO - Journal of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2015


  • cochlear mechanics
  • reverse correlation
  • spike-triggered average

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Sensory Systems

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