Masking might be due either to the spread of the excitation produced by the masker to the place of the tone signal along the cochlea or to the suppression of the response to the signal by the masker. In order to identify the contributions of these two mechanisms to tone‐on‐tone masking, masked thresholds of auditory‐nerve fibers were measured in anesthetized cats using the same stimulus paradigms and detection criteria as in psychophysics. Suppressive masking was identified by comparing thresholds for simultaneous masking with those for a nonsimultaneous masking technique resembling pulsation thresholds. These nonsimultaneous thresholds do not include the contribution of suppression to masking because suppression only occurs for stimuli that overlap in time. For each masker and signal frequency, the fibers with the lowest (or ‘‘best’’) masked thresholds had characteristic frequencies (CF) slightly on the opposite side of the masker frequency with respect to the signal frequency, consistent with the psychophysical phenomenon of off‐frequency listening. Patterns of best masked thresholds against signal frequency resembled psychophysical masking patterns in that they showed a maximum for signal frequencies close to the masker, and a skew toward high frequencies. Masking was found to be both excitatory and suppressive, with the relative contribution of the two mechanisms depending on the frequency separation between signal and masker. Suppressive masking was large for signal frequencies well above the masker. For these conditions, simultaneous thresholds grew more rapidly with masker level than did nonsimultaneous thresholds, suggesting that the upward spread of masking is largely due to the growth of suppression rather than to that of excitation.

This content is only available via PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.