Plasticity of Binaural Systems

  • David R. Moore
  • Andrew J. King
Part of the Springer Handbook of Auditory Research book series (SHAR, volume 23)


The ability to localize a sound source in space relies on the detection and interpretation of spatial cues that arise from the interaction between sound waves and the head and external ears. The dominant cues for localization in the horizontal dimension are binaural cues: interaural time differences (ITDs) and interaural level differences (ILDs). Spectral localization cues are generated by the head and external ears and are utilized for resolving front—back confusion, localization in the vertical plane, and for localization using one ear alone (see Wightman and Kistler 1997a). To localize sound sources accurately and unambiguously, the central auditory system (CAS) must extract, process, and combine information over different frequency channels and from both ears to form an internal representation of these cues. Acoustical measurements in humans and other animals have shown that the spatial cue values available can vary quite markedly from one individual to another. The relationship between the cue values and sound location must therefore be learned on the basis of experience. Moreover, as the head grows, the monaural and binaural cue values that correspond to particular directions in space will change. The developing CAS must therefore adjust to the changing cues to maintain accurate localization. Plasticity, particularly of the pathways responsible for binaural processing, is thus a necessary requirement for the retention of normal function through the period of head growth (up to about 12 years in humans; see Clifton 1992).


Inferior Colliculus Interaural Time Difference Interaural Level Difference Lateral Superior Olive Auditory Space 
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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2004

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  • David R. Moore
  • Andrew J. King

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