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Brain Res. 1988 Apr-Jun;472(2):139-63.

Complex sound analysis (frequency resolution, filtering and spectral integration) by single units of the inferior colliculus of the cat.

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  • 1Fakultät für Biologie, Universität Konstanz, F.R.G.


The central nucleus of the inferior colliculus (ICC) is a center of convergence of brainstem input and is critical for auditory information processing. Here, the analysis of complex sound spectra by single neurons in the ICC is investigated. Several measures of frequency resolution (excitatory/inhibitory tuning curves, effective bandwidths, critical ratio bands, critical bands derived using narrowband masking and two-tone separation paradigms) have been obtained from the responses of these neurons at sound pressure levels (SPL) up to 80 dB above the units' response thresholds (nearly 110 dB SPL). Among our results are the following: (1) Narrowband masking measures of critical bands from ICC neurons closely parallel behavioral measures using the same stimulus paradigm. (2) Frequency resolution power as measured by critical bandwidths varies little as a function of stimulus intensity. (3) Tuning curves of ICC neurons provide no simple basis for predicting the frequency filtering of the same neurons excited by complex sound spectra. (4) There is a frequency dependence of all measures of frequency resolution similar to that found in psychophysical determinations of critical bandwidths. That is, spatial frequency resolution in the cochlea is the origin for the resolution found in the ICC and in behavioral tests. (5) Lateral inhibition at the level of the ICC clearly plays a role in frequency resolution. (6) Frequency resolution is encoded by response rate changes of ICC neurons and is independent of tone response threshold, response latency, spontaneous activity, tone response type, binaural response type. It is concluded that spectral analysis of sound is established by processes, including lateral inhibition, independent of other basic response properties of neurons at the level of the ICC.

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