Unexceptional sharpness of frequency tuning in the human cochlea

Mario A. Ruggero*, Andrei N. Temchin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

96 Scopus citations


The responses to sound of auditory-nerve fibers are well known in many animals but are topics of conjecture for humans. Some investigators have claimed that the auditory-nerve fibers of humans are more sharply tuned than are those of various experimental animals. Here we invalidate such claims. First, we show that forward-masking psychophysical tuning curves, which were used as the principal support for those claims, greatly overestimate the sharpness of cochlear tuning in experimental animals and, hence, also probably in humans. Second, we calibrate compound action potential tuning curves against the tuning of auditory-nerve fibers in experimental animals and use compound action potential tuning curves recorded in humans to show that the sharpness of tuning in human cochleae is not exceptional and that it is actually similar to tuning in all mammals and birds for which comparisons are possible. Third, we note that the similarity of frequency of tuning across species with widely diverse cochlear lengths and auditory bandwidths implies that for any given stimulus frequency the "cochlear amplifier" is confined to a highly localized region of the cochlea.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)18614-18619
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number51
StatePublished - Dec 20 2005


  • Auditory nerve
  • Basilar membrane
  • Compound action potential
  • Masking
  • Psychophysical tuning curve

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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