Spatial hearing in cochlear implant (CI) patients remains a major challenge, with many early deaf users reported to have no measurable sensitivity to interaural time differences (ITDs). Deprivation of binaural experience during an early critical period is often hypothesized to be the cause of this shortcoming. However, we show that neonatally deafened (ND) rats provided with precisely synchronized CI stimulation in adulthood can be trained to lateralize ITDs with essentially normal behavioral thresholds near 50 ms. Furthermore, comparable ND rats show high physiological sensitivity to ITDs immediately after binaural implantation in adulthood. Our result that ND-CI rats achieved very good behavioral ITD thresholds, while prelingually deaf human CI patients often fail to develop a useful sensitivity to ITD raises urgent questions concerning the possibility that shortcomings in technology or treatment, rather than missing input during early development, may be behind the usually poor binaural outcomes for current CI patients.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Microbiology(all)
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)