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J Neurophysiol. 1999 Jun;81(6):2862-74.

Physiological properties of neurons in the ventral nucleus of the lateral lemniscus of the rat: intrinsic membrane properties and synaptic responses.

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Laboratory of Sensory Neuroscience, Institute of Neuroscience, Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario K1S 5B6, Canada.


The physiological properties including current-voltage relationships, firing patterns, and synaptic responses of the neurons in the ventral nucleus of the lateral lemniscus (VNLL) were studied in brain slices taken through the young rat's (17-37 days old) auditory brain stem. Intracellular recordings were made from VNLL neurons, and synaptic potentials were elicited by electrical stimulation of the lateral lemniscus ventral to the VNLL. Current-voltage relations and firing patterns were tested by recording the electrical potentials produced by intracellular injection of positive and negative currents. There were two types of VNLL neurons (type I and II) that exhibited different current-voltage relationships. In response to negative current, both type I and II neurons produced a graded hyperpolarization. Type I neurons responded to positive current with a graded depolarization and multiple action potentials the number of which was related to the strength of the current injected. The current-voltage relations of type I neurons were nearly linear. Type II neurons responded to positive current with a limited depolarization and only one or a few action potentials. The current-voltage relations of type II neurons were nonlinear near the resting potential. The membrane properties of the type II VNLL neurons may play an important role for processing information about time of onset of a sound. Type I neurons showed three different firing patterns, i.e., regular, onset-pause and adaptation, in response to small positive current. The onset-pause and adaptation patterns could become sustained when a large current was injected. The regular, onset-pause, and adaptation patterns in type I neurons and the onset pattern in type II neurons resemble "chopper," "pauser, " "primary-like," and "on" responses, respectively, as defined in in vivo VNLL studies. The results suggest that different responses to acoustic stimulation could be attributed to intrinsic membrane properties of VNLL neurons. Many VNLL neurons responded to stimulation of the lateral lemniscus with excitatory or inhibitory responses or both. Excitatory and inhibitory responses showed interaction, and the output of the synaptic integration depended on the relative strength of excitatory and inhibitory responses. Neurons with an onset-pause firing pattern were more likely to receive mixed excitatory and inhibitory inputs from the lower auditory brain stem.

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