The precedence effect and its buildup and breakdown in ferrets and humans.
Tolnai S., Litovsky RY., King AJ.
Although many studies have examined the precedence effect (PE), few have tested whether it shows a buildup and breakdown in nonhuman animals comparable to that seen in humans. These processes are thought to reflect the ability of the auditory system to adjust to a listener's acoustic environment, and their mechanisms are still poorly understood. In this study, ferrets were trained on a two-alternative forced-choice task to discriminate the azimuthal direction of brief sounds. In one experiment, pairs of noise bursts were presented from two loudspeakers at different interstimulus delays (ISDs). Results showed that localization performance changed as a function of ISD in a manner consistent with the PE being operative. A second experiment investigated buildup and breakdown of the PE by measuring the ability of ferrets to discriminate the direction of a click pair following presentation of a conditioning train. Human listeners were also tested using this paradigm. In both species, performance was better when the test clicks and conditioning train had the same ISD but deteriorated following a switch in the direction of the leading and lagging sounds between the conditioning train and test clicks. These results suggest that ferrets, like humans, experience a buildup and breakdown of the PE.