Late maturation of backward masking in auditory cortex.


Late maturation of backward masking in auditory cortex.


Mattingly Michelle M; Donell Brittany M; Rosen Merri J


Journal of neurophysiology




Speech perception relies on the accurate resolution of brief, successive sounds that change rapidly over time. Deficits in the perception of such sounds, indicated by a reduced ability to detect signals during auditory backward masking, strongly relate to language processing difficulties in children. Backward masking during normal development has a longer maturational trajectory than many other auditory percepts, implicating the involvement of central auditory neural mechanisms with protracted developmental time courses. Despite the importance of this percept, its neural correlates are not well described at any developmental stage. We therefore measured auditory cortical responses to masked signals in juvenile and adult Mongolian gerbils and quantified the detection ability of individual neurons and neural populations in a manner comparable with psychoacoustic measurements. Perceptually, auditory backward masking manifests as higher thresholds for detection of a short signal followed by a masker than for the same signal in silence. Cortical masking was driven by a combination of suppressed responses to the signal and a reduced dynamic range available for signal detection in the presence of the masker. Both coding elements contributed to greater masked threshold shifts in juveniles compared with adults, but signal-evoked firing suppression was more pronounced in juveniles. Neural threshold shifts were a better match to human psychophysical threshold shifts when quantified with a longer temporal window that included the response to the delayed masker, suggesting that temporally selective listening may contribute to age-related differences in backward masking. NEW & NOTEWORTHY In children, auditory detection of backward masked signals is immature well into adolescence, and detection deficits correlate with problems in speech processing. Our auditory cortical recordings reveal immature backward masking in adolescent animals that mirrors the prolonged development seen in children. This is driven by both signal-evoked suppression and dynamic range reduction. An extended window of analysis suggests that differences in temporally focused listening may contribute to late maturing thresholds for backward masked signals.


auditory; cortex; detection; development; masking


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Mattingly Michelle M; Donell Brittany M; Rosen Merri J, “Late maturation of backward masking in auditory cortex.,” NEOMED Bibliography Database, accessed January 27, 2021,

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