Neuromagnetic evaluation of binaural unmasking

Takatsuna Sasaki, Tetsuaki Kawase, Nobukazu Nakasato, Akitake Kanno, Masaki Ogura, Teiji Tominaga, Toshimitsu Kobayashi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Binaural unmasking refers to the improvement in intelligibility under conditions of masking when a tone is presented out of phase rather than in phase. In the present study, binaural unmasking was evaluated using auditory-evoked magnetoencephalography (MEG) in eight healthy right-handed volunteers (7 males and 1 female, mean age 25.9 years). Peak latency and amplitude of the N1m response to tone bursts of 250 Hz (n = 8), 1000 Hz (n = 3), and 4000 Hz (n = 3) were measured under S0N0 (binaural phase difference was zero radian (in phase) for both stimulus sound and masker noise) and SpiN0 (binaural phase difference was pi radian (out of phase) for stimulus sound and zero radian for masker noise) conditions. The level of tone bursts was swept by 5 or 10 dB steps from the level of 20 dB above the psychophysical threshold under the S0N0 condition until no significant auditory-evoked field could be observed. Identical background noise was presented to both ears continuously at 50 dB SPL. N1m responses to stimuli at or above the psychophysical threshold were found bilaterally in all subjects except one who had only right hemispheric N1m. N1m response for the SpiN0 stimulus had larger amplitude and shorter latency than that for the S0N0 stimulus in each hemisphere and at each sound level. Neuromagnetic binaural unmasking was greatest around the threshold level, corresponding to psychophysical binaural unmasking; became smaller with greater stimuli, indicating the suprathreshold unmasking effect; and disappeared at around 15-20 dB above the threshold. Psychophysical binaural unmasking can be quantitatively evaluated by MEG in the auditory cortex level of the bilateral hemispheres.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)684-689
Number of pages6
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2005 Apr 15


  • Auditory cortex
  • Binaural unmasking
  • Masking level difference
  • MEG


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