Bernhard Gaese
Lecturer (Privatdozent)
Auditory Physiology and Cognition LabResearch

Phone: +49 69 / 798 42061

We are interested in the neural basis of auditory perception with an emphasis on the importance of cognitive modulation and behavioral context. Hearing is an active process where bottom-up processing of auditory information interacts with top-down influences that enhance some aspects while diminishing others depending on earlier experience and behavioral context. We investigate this as a model to study the link between sensation, perception, and decision making. The main research topics are:

1. Attentional influences on hearing

Selective attention can strongly modulate auditory perception. For audition as a primarily undirected sense it is mainly spatial selective attention that is important for separating relevant sound sources from interfering background noise. We have found such effects of spatial selective attention on sound localization behavior in barn owls and rats (Johnen et al. 2001). Recent studies using psychophysical methods in rodents and humans focus on non-spatial selective attention, on focusing attention in time, and on the interaction between attention and scene segregation.

2. Neuronal adaptation in the auditory system

An important part of attentional focusing is the automatic orienting towards sensory stimuli of behavioral relevance. Novel acoustic stimuli are by themselves of presumed great importance compared to frequently occurring signals in the acoustic background. The stimulus-specific neuronal adaptation of responses to frequently occurring stimuli is one of the neural mechanisms presumably underlying novelty detection in the auditory system. We are investigating neuronal adaptation in the auditory cortex (von der Behrens et al. 2009) and in the auditory thalamus (Bäuerle et al., submitted) of small rodents. Parallel recording of neuronal responses and field potentials allow for a close comparison to investigations on mismatch negativity in humans. Possible neuronal mechanisms are investigated by manipulating the corticothalamic feedback loop.

3. Interactions between tones: perceptual effects and their neural basis

Many important signals such as animal communication sounds or human speech are actually segmented sequences of acoustic signals. The perception of these signals might not just be a step-by-step processing of separate parts, but might also depend on interactions between neighboring segments. We study such context-dependent sensory processing in a paradigm that combines different pre-tones with an FM-direction discrimination task. We found clear frequency-dependent interactions over time (up to 1 – 2 sec) and across a broad frequency-range (up to 2 oct). Interactions were not abolished by an interspersed noise burst and were also, in many listeners, dependent on the pitch of a missing fundamental. Non-invasive brain activity recording (MEG) revealed a strong involvement of higher auditory cortical areas.

4. 'Behavioral characterization and neural mechanisms of chronic tinnitus

Based on the well characterized acoustic startle response in gerbils (Gaese et al., 2009) we

The perception of frequency-modulated (FM) stimuli is investigated, as the ability to differentiate between FM-stimuli is strongly based on central auditory processing. As a prerequisite for the analysis of the underlying neuronal mechanisms we have investigated the ability to differentiate between upward and downward FM not only in humans (thesis S. Wehner) but also in rats (Gaese et al. 2006).


This work was supported by research grants from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft and Jürgen Manchot Stiftung.


2016 2015 - 20142013 - 2012 - 2011 - 2010 - 2009 - 2008 - 2007 - 2006 - 2005 - 2003 - 2002 - 2001

Publications 2016


Steube N, Nowotny M, Pilz PK, Gaese BH. Dependence of the Startle Response on Temporal and Spectral Characteristics of Acoustic Modulatory Influences in Rats and Gerbils. Front Behav Neurosci. 2016 Jun 30;10:133. doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2016.00133. eCollection 2016.

Publications 2015


Kiefer L, Schauen A, Abendroth S, Gaese BH, Nowotny M. Variation in acoustic overstimulation changes tinnitus characteristics. Neuroscience. 310: 176-187.

Publications 2014


Klein C., von der Behrens W., Gaese B. H. (2014): Simulus-Specific Adaptation in Field Potentials and neuronal Responses to Frequency-Modulated Tones in the primary Auditory Cortex. Brain Topogr (2014) 27:599-610 DOI 10.1007/s10548-014-0376-4

Publications 2013



Riegel A.-K., Gaese B. (2013): Rat auditory cortical functioning and different aspects of performance in frequency discrimination tasks . 10th Göttingen Meeting of the German Neuroscience Society: T18-2B

Betz S., Gaese B. (2013): Regularity-dependent changes in stimulus-specific adaptation in the auditory cortex. 10th Göttingen Meeting of the German Neuroscience Society: T18-1B

Altmann C. F., Gaese B. H. (2013): Representationof frequency-modulated souds in the human brain. Hear. Res. 307 (2014) 74-85

Publications 2012


Althen, H., Wittekindt, A., Gaese, B. H., Kössl, M., and Abel, C. (2012) Effect of contralateral pure tone stimulation on distortion emissions suggests a frequency specific functioning of the efferent cochlear control. J. Neurophysiol. 107:1962-1969

Publications 2011


Lenz, J., Fiedler, W., Caprano, T., Friedrichs, W., Gaese, B.H., Wikelski, M. and Böhning-Gaese, K (2011) Seed-dispersal distributions by trumpeter hornbills in fragmented landscapes. Proc. R. Soc. B. 278: 2257-2264.

Bäuerle, P, von der Behrens, W., Kössl, M., and Gaese, B.H.. (2011) Stimulus-Specific Adaptation in the Gerbil Primary Auditory Thalamus Is the Result of a Fast Frequency-Specific Habituation and Is Regulated by the Corticofugal System. J. Neuroscience 31(26):9708-9722.

Altmann, C.F., Klein, K., Heinemann, L.V., Wibral, M., Gaese, B.H. and Kaiser, J. (2011) Repetition of complex frequency-modulated sweeps enhances neuromagnetic responses in the human auditory cortex. Hear. Res. (available online: doi:10.1016/j.heares.2011.07.008 ).

Nowotny, M., Remus, M., Kössl, M., and Gaese, B.H. (2011) Characterization of the Perceived Sound of Traum-Induced Tinnitus in Gerbils. J. Acoust. Soc.Am. 130(5): 2827-2834.


Nowotny M., Remus M., Kössl M., Gaese B. 2011.Trauma-induced tinnitus in gerbils centers around the induction frequency. In: Santi PA (ed.) Abstracts of the 34th Annual Midwinter Research Meeting., Association for Research in Otolaryngology.# 188

Publications 2010


Behrens Wvd, Bäuerle P, Kössl M, Gaese B (2010) Correlating stimulus-specific adaptation of cortical neurons and local field potentials in the awake rat. J Neuroscience 29: 13837-13849


Gaese, B.H., Heinrich, A. (2010) Auditory Interactions in FM Direction Discrimination in Humans. Assoc. Res. Otolaryngol. Abs.: 991

Gaese, B.H. (2010) Neuronale Grundlagen von Interaktionen beim Hören. 13. Jahrestagung Deutsche Gesellschaft für Audiologie

Lenz, J., Fiedler, W., Caprano, T., Friedrichs, W., Gaese, B.H., Wikelski, M. and Böhning-Gaese, K. (2010) Long-distance seed dispersal by Trumpeter Hornbills in a fragmented landscape. 5th International Frugivory and Seed Dispersal Symposium, Montpellier, France


Heinemann, L.V., Rahm, B., Kaiser, J., Gaese, B.H., and Altmann, C.F. (2010) Repetition enhancement for frequency-modulated but not unmodulated sounds: A human MEG study. Plos ONE (in press)

Lenz, J., Fiedler, W., Caprano, T., Friedrichs, W., Gaese, B.H., Wikelski, M. and Böhning-Gaese, K. (2010) Seed-dispersal distributions by Trumpeter Hornbills in fragmented landscapes. Proc. Royal Soc. London B (in press)

Publications 2009


Gaese, B. H. ; Nowotny, M. ; Pilz, P. K. D. (2009):
Acoustic startle and prepulse inhibition in the Mongolian gerbil.
Physiology & Behavior 98: 460-466.

Wittekindt, A. ; Gaese, B. ; Kössl, M. (2009):
Influence of contralateral acoustic stimulation on the quadratic distortion product f2-f1 in humans.
Hear Res 247 (1): 27-33.

Althen, H. ; Wittekindt, A. ; Abel, C. ; Gaese, B. ; Kössl, M. (2009):
Contralateral sound alters the f2-f1 distortion product otoacoustic emission - Frequency specificity and impact of primary tone level.
Proceedings of the 8th Meeting of the German Neuroscience Society: T17-4B.

Gaese, B. ; Nowotny, M. ; Pilz, P. (2009):
Acoustic startle response in the wild-type and domesticated Mongolian gerbil.
Proceedings of the 8th Meeting of the German Neuroscience Society: T18-6B.

Publications 2008


Eckrich, T.; Foeller, E.; Stuermer, I. W.; Gaese, B.; Kössl, M. (2008):
Strain-dependence of age-related cochlear hearing loss in wild and domesticated Mongolian gerbils.
Hear Res 235 (1-2): 72-79.

von der Behrens, W. ; Gaese, B. (2008):
Intracortical Auditory Evekod Potentials to Frequency Deviants in an Oddball Paradigm in the Awake Rat Auditory Cortex.
Assoc Res Otolaryngol Abs: 904.

Publications 2007


von der Behrens, W. ; Kössl, M. ; Gaese, B. (2007):
Parameters Influencing Neuronal Adaptation to Pure Tone Stimuli in the Awake Rat Auditory.
Assoc Res Otolaryngol Abs: 405.

von der Behrens, W. ; Kössl, M. ; Gaese, B. (2007):
Neuronal Adaptation to Pure Tone Stimuli in the Awake Rat Auditory Cortex.
Neuroforum 07 (1 Suppl): T19-13A.

Publications 2006


Gaese, B. ; King, I. ; Felsheim, C. ; Ostwald, J. ; von der Behrens, W. (2006):
Discrimination of direction in fast frequency-modulated tones by rats.
J Assoc Res Otolaryngol 7 (1): 48-58.

Gaese, B. ; Felsheim, C. ; King, I. ; von der Behrens, W. ; Ostwald, J. (2006):
Efficiency versus precision of adaptive threshold estimation in animal psychoacoustics: Evidence from auditory discrimination in rats.
Assoc Res Otolaryngol Abs: 756.

Publications 2005


Wagner, H. ; Gaese, B. (2005):
Can we understand the action of brains in natural environments? 
van Hemmen, L. ; Sejnowski, T.J. (eds.): 23 Problems in Systems Neuroscience. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Isheim, D. ; Gaese, B. ; Kössl, M. (2005):
Representation of temporally structured acoustic stimuli in gerbil auditory cortical neurons: Influences of repetition rate and sound intensity.
Assoc Res Otolaryngol Abs: 345.

Isheim, D. ; Gaese, B. ; Kössl, M. (2005):
Temporal processing of modulated acoustic stimuli in gerbil primary auditory cortex.
Neuroforum 05 (1 Suppl): 103 A.

von der Behrens, W. ; Gaese, B. (2005):
Investigating the influence of spatial attention on the processing of frequency-modulated tones in the rat .
Neuroforum 05 (1 Suppl): 103 B.

Publications 2003


Gaese, B. ; Ostwald, J. (2003):
Complexity and temporal dynamics of frequency coding in the awake rat auditory cortex.
Eur J Neurosci 18 (9): 2638-2652.

Publications 2002


Gaese, B. ; Wagner, H. (2002):
Precognitive and cognitive elements in sound localization.
Zoology 105 (4): 329-339.

Publications 2001


Gaese, B. ; Ostwald. J. (2001):
Anesthesia changes frequency tuning of neurons in the rat primary auditory cortex.
J Neurophysiol 86 ( 2): 1062-1066.

Gaese, B. (2001):
Population coding in the auditory cortex.
Prog Brain Res 130: 221-230.

Johnen, A. ; Wagner, H. ; Gaese, B. (2001):
Spatial attention modulates sound localization in barn owls.
J Neurophysiol 85 ( 2): 1009-1012.