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Hear Res. 2011 Apr;274(1-2):27-39. doi: 10.1016/j.heares.2010.05.010. Epub 2010 May 31.

The dominance of inhibition in the inferior colliculus.

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Section of Neurobiology, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78712, USA.


Almost all of the processing that occurs in the various lower auditory nuclei converges upon a common target in the central nucleus of the inferior colliculus (ICc) thus making the ICc the nexus of the auditory system. A variety of new response properties are formed in the ICc through the interactions among the excitatory and inhibitory inputs that converge upon it. Here we review studies that illustrate the dominant role inhibition plays in the ICc. We begin by reviewing studies of tuning curves and show how inhibition shapes the variety of tuning curves in the ICc through sideband inhibition. We then show how inhibition shapes selective response properties for complex signals, focusing on selectivity for the sweep direction of frequency modulations (FM). In the final section we consider results from in vivo whole-cell recordings that show how parameters of the incoming excitation and inhibition interact to shape directional selectivity. We show that post-synaptic potentials (PSPs) evoked by different signals can be similar but evoke markedly different spike-counts. In these cases, spike threshold acts as a non-linear amplifier that converts small differences in PSPs into large differences in spike output. Such differences between the inputs to a cell compared to the outputs from the same cell suggest that highly selective discharge properties can be created by only minor adjustments in the synaptic strengths evoked by one or both signals. These findings also suggest that plasticity of response features may be achieved with far less modifications in circuitry than previously supposed.

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