Many mammals, including humans, are exquisitely sensitive to tiny time differences between sounds at the two ears. These interaural time differences are an important source of information for sound detection, for sound localization in space, and for environmental awareness. Two brainstem circuits are involved in the initial temporal comparisons between the ears, centered on the medial and lateral superior olive. Cells in these nuclei, as well as their afferents, display a large number of striking physiological and anatomical specializations to enable submillisecond sensitivity. As such, they provide an important model system to study temporal processing in the central nervous system. We review the progress that has been made in characterizing these primary binaural circuits as well as the variety of mechanisms that have been proposed to underlie their function.

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Department of Neuroscience

Joris, P., & van der Heijden, M. (2019). Early Binaural Hearing: The Comparison of Temporal Differences at the Two Ears. Retrieved from