Date: 21 Mar 2013

Detection of Tones and Their Modification by Noise in Nonhuman Primates

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A fundamental function of the auditory system is to detect important sounds in the presence of other competing environmental sounds. This paper describes behavioral performance in a tone detection task by nonhuman primates (Macaca mulatta) and the modification of the performance by continuous background noise and by sinusoidally amplitude modulating signals or noise. Two monkeys were trained to report detection of tones in a reaction time Go/No-Go task using the method of constant stimuli. The tones spanned a wide range of frequencies and sound levels, and were presented alone or in continuous broadband noise (40 kHz bandwidth). Signal detection theoretic analysis revealed that thresholds to tones were lowest between 8 and 16 kHz, and were higher outside this range. At each frequency, reaction times decreased with increases in tone sound pressure level. The slope of this relationship was higher at frequencies below 1 kHz and was lower for higher frequencies. In continuous broadband noise, tone thresholds increased at the rate of 1 dB/dB of noise for frequencies above 1 kHz. Noise did not change either the reaction times for a given tone sound pressure level or the slopes of the reaction time vs. tone level relationship. Amplitude modulation of tones resulted in reduced threshold for nearly all the frequencies tested. Amplitude modulation of the tone caused thresholds for detection in continuous broadband noise to be changed by smaller amounts relative to the detection of steady-state tones in noise. Amplitude modulation of background noise resulted in reduction of detection thresholds of steady-state tones by an average of 11 dB relative to thresholds in steady-state noise of equivalent mean amplitude. In all cases, the slopes of the reaction time vs. sound level relationship were not modified. These results show that macaques have hearing functions similar to those measured in humans. These studies form the basis for ongoing studies of neural mechanisms of hearing in noisy backgrounds.