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J Neurosci. 2015 Jun 3;35(22):8579-92. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0133-15.2015.

Inhibition shapes acoustic responsiveness in spherical bushy cells.

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Faculty of Biosciences, Pharmacy and Psychology, University of Leipzig, D-04103 Leipzig, Germany.
Faculty of Biosciences, Pharmacy and Psychology, University of Leipzig, D-04103 Leipzig, Germany


Signal processing in the auditory brainstem is based on an interaction of neuronal excitation and inhibition. To date, we have incomplete knowledge of how the dynamic interplay of both contributes to the processing power and temporal characteristics of signal coding. The spherical bushy cells (SBCs) of the anteroventral cochlear nucleus (AVCN) receive their primary excitatory input through auditory nerve fibers via large, axosomatic synaptic terminals called the endbulbs of Held and by additional, acoustically driven inhibitory inputs. SBCs provide the input to downstream nuclei of the brainstem sound source localization circuitry, such as the medial and lateral superior olive, which rely on temporal precise inputs. In this study, we used juxtacellular recordings in anesthetized Mongolian gerbils to assess the effect of acoustically evoked inhibition on the SBCs input-output function and on temporal precision of SBC spiking. Acoustically evoked inhibition proved to be strong enough to suppress action potentials (APs) of SBCs in a stimulus-dependent manner. Inhibition shows slow onset and offset dynamics and increasing strength at higher sound intensities. In addition, inhibition decreases the rising slope of the EPSP and prolongs the EPSP-to-AP transition time. Both effects can be mimicked by iontophoretic application of glycine. Inhibition also improves phase locking of SBC APs to low-frequency tones by acting as a gain control to suppress poorly timed EPSPs from generating postsynaptic APs to maintain precise SBC spiking across sound intensities. The present data suggest that inhibition substantially contributes to the processing power of second-order neurons in the ascending auditory system.


auditory signal processing; cochlear nucleus; in vivo electrophysiology; inhibition; phase locking; spherical bushy cells

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