, Volume 196, Issue 7, pp 463-470
Date: 21 May 2010

Localization dominance and the effect of frequency in the Mongolian Gerbil, Meriones unguiculatus

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Abstract

Due to its good low-frequency hearing, the Mongolian Gerbil (Meriones unguiculatus) has become a well-established animal model for human hearing. In humans, sound localization in reverberant environments is facilitated by the precedence effect, i.e., the perceptual suppression of spatial information carried by echoes. The current study addresses the question whether gerbils are a valid animal model for such complex spatial processing. Specifically, we quantify localization dominance, i.e., the fact that in the context of precedence, only the directional information of the sound which reaches the ear first dominates the perceived position of a sound source whereas directional information of the delayed echoes is suppressed. As localization dominance is known to be stimulus-dependent, we quantified the extent to which the spectral content of transient sounds affects localization dominance in the gerbil. The results reveal that gerbils show stable localization dominance across echo delays, well comparable to humans. Moreover, localization dominance systematically decreased with increasing center frequency, which has not been demonstrated in an animal before. These findings are consistent with an important contribution of peripheral-auditory processing to perceptual localization dominance. The data show that the gerbil is an excellent model to study the neural basis of complex spatial-auditory processing.