medial geniculate nuclei C. Dorsal view of brain stem and mid brain ventral & dorsal cochlear nucleus auditory nerve

medial geniculate nucleus lateral lemniscus medial geniculate nucleus to the cerebral cortex inferior colliculus superior olive lateral lemniscus ventral & dorsal cochlear nucleus auditory nerve

Both phase-locked and tonotopic codes are important because they compensate for the different weaknesses inherent in each type of coding. The tonotopic map works best when comparing different pitches of sounds having equal intensity. For example, it does not work well in differentiating between a soft, low pitch and a much louder, high pitch because both can displace the apex region of the basilar membrane to the same degree.

The phase-lock coding of pitch works best for low frequencies but fails at high frequencies. This is because the firing rate of a neuron is fast enough to match the wave frequency of lower pitches but not that of high pitches. At frequencies above 400 Hz, the intrinsic variability in the timing of the action potential is comparable to the time interval between successive waves. In this case, neurons tend to fire at random phases of the sound wave and provide no code of sound frequency. Thus, the frequency coding of the full audible range of sound relies on phase-locking at low frequencies, on both phase-locking and tonotopy at intermediate frequencies, and on tonotopy alone at high frequencies.

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