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J Neurophysiol. 2006 Nov;96(5):2451-64. Epub 2006 Aug 16.

Temporal measures and neural strategies for detection of tones in noise based on responses in anteroventral cochlear nucleus.

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Department of Biomedical and Chemical Engineering, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY 13244, USA.


To examine possible neural strategies for the detection of tones in broadband noise, single-neuron extracellular recordings were obtained from the anteroventral cochlear nucleus (AVCN) in anesthetized gerbils. Detection thresholds determined by average discharge rate and several temporal metrics were compared with previously reported psychophysical detection thresholds in cats (Costalupes 1985). Because of their limited dynamic range, the average discharge rates of single neurons failed to predict psychophysical detection thresholds for relatively high-level noise at all measured characteristic frequencies (CFs). However, temporal responses changed significantly when a tone was added to a noise, even for neurons with flat masked rate-level functions. Three specific temporal analyses were applied to neural responses to tones in noise. First, temporal reliability, a measure of discharge time consistency across stimulus repetitions, decreased with increasing tone level for most AVCN neurons at all measured CFs. Second, synchronization to the tone frequency, a measure of phase-locking to the tone, increased with tone level for low-CF neurons. Third, rapid fluctuations in the poststimulus time histograms (PSTHs) decreased with tone level for a number of neurons at all CFs. For each of the three temporal measures, some neurons had detection thresholds at or below psychophysical thresholds. A physiological model of a higher-stage auditory neuron that received simple excitatory and inhibitory inputs from AVCN neurons was able to extract the PSTH fluctuation information in a form of decreased rate with tone level.

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