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J Neurosci. 1990 Jul;10(7):2338-51.

Membrane properties and discharge characteristics of guinea pig dorsal cochlear nucleus neurons studied in vitro.

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Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland 21205.


Intracellular recordings were made from neurons of the guinea pig dorsal cochlear nucleus in an in vitro brain slice preparation. The membrane properties of the cells were studied, and the membrane potentials were manipulated by current injection to determine how intrinsic conductances might alter the cell discharge patterns. Eleven cells were marked with Lucifer yellow. Ten of these cells were identified as the large pyramidal cells of layer 2 of this nucleus, and 1 cell was identified as a "vertical" cell in layer 3. Two kinds of action potentials were observed: simple spikes and complex spikes. This report discusses only cells with simple spikes. Simple spiking cells (60/72 recorded cells; all stained cells were simple spiking cells) discharged in a regular fashion with depolarization, and had linear frequency-current relationships up to 2 nA with a mean slope of 116 Hz/nA. The discharge rate was approximately constant throughout the current pulse. Responses of simple spiking cells to depolarizing current steps superimposed on a steady-state membrane hyperpolarization were studied. When the membrane has been held hyperpolarized, small current pulses produce a long-latency regular train of action potentials. Larger current pulses superimposed on membrane hyperpolarization can produce a short-latency action potential followed by a long silent interval (i.e., a long first interspike interval), and finally a regular train of spikes. It is concluded that the membrane conductances of DCN pyramidal cells are capable of generating at least 3 discharge patterns (regular firing, long first spike latency, and long first interspike interval) depending on the state of the membrane potential prior to a depolarizing current step. These responses are similar to the "chopper," "buildup," and "pauser" discharge patterns reported for these cells in vivo in response to tone bursts. The modulation of the intrinsic membrane conductances by membrane polarization and the possible contribution of these conductances to the generation of DCN discharge patterns provide new insights into the mechanisms underlying the responses of DCN cells to acoustic stimuli.

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