The detection of a signal in noise is enhanced when the masking noise is coherently modulated over a wide range of frequencies. This phenomenon, known as comodulation masking release (CMR), has been attributed to across-channel processing; however, the relative contribution of different stages in the auditory system to such across-channel processing is unknown. It has been hypothesized that wideband or lateral inhibition may underlie a physiological correlate of CMR. To further test this hypothesis, we have measured the responses of single units from the dorsal cochlear nucleus in which wideband inhibition is particularly pronounced. Using a sinusoidally amplitude-modulated tone at the best frequency of each unit as a masker, a pure-tone signal was added in the dips of the masker modulation. Flanking bands (FBs, also amplitude-modulated pure tones) were positioned to fall within the inhibitory sidebands of the receptive field of the unit. The FBs were either in phase (comodulated) or out of phase (codeviant) with the on-frequency masker. For the majority of units, the addition of the comodulated FBs produced a strong reduction in the response to the masker modulation, making the signal more salient in the poststimulus time histograms. The change in spike rate in response to the signal between the masker and signal-plus-masker conditions was greatest for the comodulated condition for 29 of 45 units. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that wideband inhibition may play a role in across-channel processing at an early stage in the auditory pathway.
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