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Eur J Neurosci. 1999 Apr;11(4):1414LAST-1420.

Conditioned enhancement and suppression in the developing auditory midbrain.

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Center for Neural Science, New York University, New York 10003, USA.


Neural responses in the adult central auditory system to binaural stimuli can be altered by preceding acoustic events, including auditory motion. To determine whether the juvenile auditory system also exhibits this feature, we have examined interaural level difference (ILD) processing in the developing gerbil. A long binaural stimulus was followed without interruption by modulation of the level difference (virtual acoustic motion), which in turn was followed smoothly by a new steady state ILD. Auditory responses of single neurons in the inferior colliculus (IC) were assessed for sensitivity to the final steady state ILD. The response of EI neurons (excited by contralateral stimulation and inhibited ipsilaterally) was examined at postnatal (P) days 17-18, P24-25, and in adult animals. In adult animals, a sudden reduction of the inhibitory stimulus level resulted in a long-lasting (median = 4.3 s) enhanced discharge rate (conditioned enhancement). In P17-18 animals, conditioned enhancement only lasted for 1.2 s. When the inhibitory stimulus level was suddenly increased, adult neurons often displayed a conditioned suppression of discharge rate (median = 4.5 s), whereas P17-18 neurons remained suppressed for a much briefer period (median = 1.2 s). Moreover, the difference between conditioned responses and control discharge rates was three-four times greater in adult neurons compared to those recorded in P17-25 animals. Because conditioned responses are sensitive to the relative balance of contralateral excitation and ipsilateral inhibition, we examined the relationship between excitatory and inhibitory thresholds. In adult animals, excitatory thresholds were an average of 12 dB lower than inhibitory thresholds, while at P17-25 excitatory and inhibitory thresholds were roughly the same. These results indicate that computational properties of juvenile and adult IC neurons differ quantitatively, and this may reflect an imbalance between excitation and inhibition. The developmental differences described herein may limit the ability of young animals to locate a sound source with the latency and accuracy of an adult.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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