Tests of the precedence effect in sound localization reveal abnormalities in multiple sclerosis

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Cranford, Jerry L.
Boose, Martha
Moore, Christopher A.

Ear and hearing. 1990 Aug; 11(4): 282-8.


The precedence effect in sound localization involves presenting identical sounds (e.g., clicks) from pairs of matched speakers situated on opposite sides of a subject's head, with the clicks from one speaker preceding those from the other by a short interval. With appropriate delays, normal subjects perceive a fused image which originates from the side of the leading speaker. This test was administered to 24 patients with multiple sclerosis (MS). Separate tests involving speaker delays ranging from 0 msec (simultaneous presentation) to 8 msec were presented. At 0 msec delay, normal subjects perceived the fused image to be located halfway between the two speakers; at progressively longer delays, the image was perceived closer to the leading speaker. In contrast to normal subjects, a large proportion of the MS subjects exhibited difficulties with the task. The discrimination deficit was limited to delays below 1 msec, suggesting a problem involving an increased threshold for lateralizing the fused image away from midline toward the side of the leading speaker. The neural instability produced by demyelination in MS patients might account for this pattern of results.

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