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Phys Rev Lett. 2005 Apr 29;94(16):168102. Epub 2005 Apr 26.

Spiking neurons learning phase delays: how mammals may develop auditory time-difference sensitivity.

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Physik Department, Technische Universität München, 85747 Garching bei München, Germany.


Time differences between the two ears are an important cue for animals to azimuthally locate a sound source. The first binaural brainstem nucleus, in mammals the medial superior olive, is generally believed to perform the necessary computations. Its cells are sensitive to variations of interaural time differences of about 10 micros. The classical explanation of such a neuronal time-difference tuning is based on the physical concept of delay lines. Recent data, however, are inconsistent with a temporal delay and rather favor a phase delay. By means of a biophysical model we show how spike-timing-dependent synaptic learning explains precise interplay of excitation and inhibition and, hence, accounts for a physical realization of a phase delay.

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