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J Neurophysiol. 2000 Feb;83(2):926-40.

Pharmacological evidence of inhibitory and disinhibitory neuronal circuits in dorsal cochlear nucleus.

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  • 1Department of Biomedical Engineering and Center for Hearing Sciences, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland 21205, USA.


The dorsal cochlear nucleus (DCN) is rich in both glycine and GABA inhibitory neurotransmitter systems, and the response properties of its principal cells (pyramidal and giant cells) are strongly shaped by inhibitory inputs. For example, DCN principal cells often display highly nonmonotonic (so-called type IV) input-output functions in response to best-frequency (BF) tones. In this study, the inhibitory inputs onto the principal cell types and onto response types of known inhibitory interneurons were compared before and during iontophoretic application of the glycine- and GABA(A)-receptor antagonists, strychnine and bicuculline. Strychnine eliminates the central (on-BF) inhibitory area in type IV units, resulting in monotonic BF rate-level curves. Unexpectedly, bicuculline primarily enhances inhibition in principal-cell types; for example, type IV units are inhibited at lower sound levels in the presence of bicuculline. Principal cell types with weaker inhibitory inputs (type IV-T and type III units) are more strongly inhibited in the presence of bicuculline and usually are converted into type IV units. This enhancement of on-BF inhibition by bicuculline suggests a disinhibitory process involving GABA(A) action on a non-GABA(A)ergic inhibitory pathway. This latter pathway is probably glycinergic and involves type II units (deep-layer vertical cells) and/or complex-spiking units (superficial cartwheel cells) because both of these unit types are disinhibited by bicuculline. One intrinsic GABA(A) source could be the superficial stellate cells in DCN because bicuculline partly blocks the inhibition evoked by somatosensory-stimulated activation of the superficial granule-cell circuitry in DCN. Taken together, the results suggest that glycinergic circuits mediate directly the inhibition of DCN principal cells, but that GABA(A)ergic circuits modulate the strength of the inhibition.

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