Synthesis of Hemispheric ITD Tuning from the Readout of a Neural Map: Commonalities of Proposed Coding Schemes in Birds and Mammals

Jose L. Peña, Fanny Cazettes, Michael V. Beckert, Brian J. Fischer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A major cue to infer sound direction is the difference in arrival time of the sound at the left and right ears, called interaural time difference (ITD). The neural coding of ITD and its similarity across species have been strongly debated. In the barn owl, an auditory specialist relying on sound localization to capture prey, ITDs within the physiological range determined by the head width are topographically represented at each frequency. The topographic representation suggests that sound direction may be inferred from the location of maximal neural activity within the map. Such topographical representation of ITD, however, is not evident in mammals. Instead, the preferred ITD of neurons in the mammalian brainstem often lies outside the physiological range and depends on the neuron's best frequency. Because of these disparities, it has been assumed that how spatial hearing is achieved in birds and mammals is fundamentally different. However, recent studies reveal ITD responses in the owl's forebrain and midbrain premotor area that are consistent with coding schemes proposed in mammals. Particularly, sound location in owls could be decoded from the relative firing rates of two broadly and inversely ITD-tuned channels. This evidence suggests that, at downstream stages, the code for ITD may not be qualitatively different across species. Thus, while experimental evidence continues to support the notion of differences in ITD representation across species and brain regions, the latest results indicate notable commonalities, suggesting that codes driving orienting behavior in mammals and birds may be comparable.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9053-9061
Number of pages9
JournalThe Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience
Issue number46
StatePublished - Nov 13 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Synthesis of Hemispheric ITD Tuning from the Readout of a Neural Map: Commonalities of Proposed Coding Schemes in Birds and Mammals'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this