Evaluating and Comparing Behavioural and Electrophysiological Estimates of Neural Health in Cochlear Implant Users.
Variations in neural health along the cochlea can degrade the spectral and temporal representation of sounds conveyed by cochlear implants (CIs). We evaluated and compared one electrophysiological measure and two behavioural measures that have been proposed as estimates of neural health patterns, in order to explore the extent to which the different measures provide converging and consistent neural health estimates. All measures were obtained from the same 11 users of the Cochlear Corporation CI. The two behavioural measures were multipulse integration (MPI) and the polarity effect (PE), both measured on each of seven electrodes per subject. MPI was measured as the difference between thresholds at 80 pps and 1000 pps, and PE as the difference in thresholds between cathodic- and anodic-centred quadraphasic (QP) 80-pps pulse trains. It has been proposed that good neural health corresponds to a large MPI and to a large negative PE (lower thresholds for cathodic than anodic pulses). The electrophysiological measure was the effect of interphase gap (IPG) on the offset of the ECAP amplitude growth function (AGF), which has been correlated with spiral ganglion neuron density in guinea pigs. This 'IPG offset' was obtained on the same subset of electrodes used for the behavioural measures. Despite high test-retest reliability, there were no significant correlations between the neural health estimates for either within-subject comparisons across the electrode array, or between-subject comparisons of the means. A phenomenological model of a population of spiral ganglion neurons was then used to investigate physiological mechanisms that might underlie the different neural health estimates. The combined experimental and modelling results provide evidence that PE, MPI and IPG offset may reflect different characteristics of the electrode-neural interface.