We have made detailed measurements of the sound-evoked post-auricular muscle response (PAMR) in four adults and two infants, in an attempt to understand the inter-relationships between sound level, potentiation of the PAMR with voluntary PAM contraction or eye rotation, electromyographic (EMG) noise, amplitude of the PAMR, and a correlation measure of the presence of the PAMR. We have found that the amplitude of the PAMR is a simple linear function of the decibel level of a monophasic click (0.1 ms duration), and that the PAMR amplitude is also a saturating power function of the level of tonic EMG. As a result, PAMR = PAM(o).SL.(EMG-EMG(noise))(2)/[(EMG-EMG(noise))(2)+beta(2) where SL is the decibel level of a click above subjective threshold, PAM, is a parameter accounting for the differing PAMR amplitude across individuals or with altered electrode placement, EMG(noise) is the component of EMG not associated with PAMR potentiation, and beta determines the initial rate of growth of PAMR at low levels of PAM activation. We have also found that the correlation measure (C) of the PAMR follows a saturating power function of the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR = PAMR/EMG), with C = SNR2/(SNR2+delta(2)), where delta determines the onset of saturation in the correlation as a function of SNR. The combination of these two relationships means that correlation is a non-monotonic function of the EMG (PAM activation): it can be large for moderate levels of EMG, but small for high levels of EMG, because the PAMR amplitude saturates but the EMG does not. The correlation is a fast, convenient means of detecting the PAMR, whether using clicks or tone-bursts, and can be used effectively in adults or infants, as long as the reflex is moderately activated. This moderate activation is most effectively produced by eye rotation towards the recording electrodes. (C) 1999 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.