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It is known that some cochlear implant users have improved speech perception using higher rates of interleaved pulsatile stimulation. There are, however, significant limitations on their performance presumably due in part to temporal and spatial interactions. To address these limitations, the authors have examined refractory characteristics of the auditory nerve using experimental animal models and computational simulations. A stochastic model of the node of Ranvier modified for mammalian sodium channel kinetics has been developed to calculate the masked input-output (I/O) functions for different interpulse intervals (IPI). The model is based upon 1000 voltage-gated sodium channels and incorporates parameters such as nodal resistance and capacitance. The relative spread (RS) calculated from the I/O functions was typically 0.03 for 17 different IPIs between 450 μs and 6 ms for cathodal stimuli. For IPI=830 and 870 μs, the RS was ten times greater than those for other IPIs. Although it is not fully understood how the electrically evoked compound action potential (EAP) data are related to single fiber data, the RS of single fibers is a partial contributor. The authors have measured the EAP using a monopolar intracochlear stimulating electrode and a recording electrode placed directly on the nerve and have observed changes in slope of EAP growth functions consistent with the theoretical RS values. These results have significant implications for speech coding in a cochlear implant since they suggest an increased membrane noise for pulse trains of specific rates.
Date of Publication: April 2001