The fMRI Data of Thompson et al. (2006) Do Not Constrain How the Human Midbrain Represents Interaural Time Delay.


Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University, 5000 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA, 15213, USA. [Email]


This commentary provides an alternate interpretation of the fMRI data that were presented in a communication to the journal Nature Neuroscience (Thompson et al., Nat. Neurosci. 9: 1096-1098, 2006 ). The authors argued that their observations demonstrated that traditional models of binaural hearing which incorporate "internal delays," such as the coincidence-counting mechanism proposed by Jeffress and quantified by Colburn, are invalid, and that a new model for human interaural time delay processing must be developed. We argue that the fMRI data presented do not strongly favor either the refutation or the retention of the traditional models, although they may be useful in constraining the physiological sites of various processing stages. The conclusions of Thompson et al. are based on the locations of maximal activity in the midbrain in response to selected binaural signals. These locations are inconsistent with well-known perceptual attributes of the stimuli under consideration, as is noted by the authors, which suggests that further processing is involved in forming the percept of subjective lateral position.


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