The refractory behavior of the electrically stimulated auditory nerve can be described by the recovery function, which plots the ECAP amplitude in response to a masker/probe stimulus pair as a function of the time interval (Masker Probe Interval, MPI) between the two stimuli. The recovery function is characterized by two time
intervals or periods: In the first interval (the Absolute Refractory Period, ARP), typically lasting for 300 to 400us, the neurons stimulated by the masker are in absolute refractory and unable to respond to the probe stimulus. As the MPI is gradually increased beyond the ARP, the stimulated neural population is increasingly able to respond to the probe stimulus (i.e. relative refractory) as the inhibitory effects of the masker diminishes.
This second interval (the Relative Refractory Period, RRP) can be characterized by the time constant of an asymptotically increasing exponential function (Morsnowski et al. 2006). This recovery time constant provides an indication of the neurons’ temporal characteristics.
Previous reports (e.g. Battmer et al. 2004) suggest that this time constant is affected by the stimulation level used to determine the recovery function. Such a dependency would make it difficult to characterize the refractory behavior of the stimulated neurons using the recovery function.
In this study, the refractory behavior of the electrically stimulated auditory nerve with respect to stimulation level was examined retrospectively. It was expected that increasing the stimulation level would result in more deterministic behavior.