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Hear Res. 1998 Dec;126(1-2):181-200.

Processing of sinusoidally amplitude modulated signals in the nuclei of the lateral lemniscus of the big brown bat, Eptesicus fuscus.

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Department of Neurobiology, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC 27710, USA.


Changes in amplitude are a characteristic feature of most natural sounds, including the biosonar signals used by bats for echolocation. Previous evidence suggests that the nuclei of the lateral lemniscus play an important role in processing timing information that is essential for target range determination in echolocation. Neurons that respond to unmodulated tones with a sustained discharge are found in the dorsal nucleus (DNLL), intermediate nucleus (INLL) and multipolar cell division of the ventral nucleus (VNLLm). These neurons provide a graded response over a broad dynamic range of intensities, and would be expected to provide information about the amplitude envelope of a modulated signal. Neurons that respond only at the onset of a tone make up a small proportion of cells in DNLL, INLL and VNLLm, but are the only type found in the columnar division of the ventral nucleus (VNLLc). Onset neurons in VNLLc maintain a constant latency across a wide range of stimulus frequencies and intensities, thus providing a precise marker for when a sound begins. To determine how these different functional classes of cells respond to amplitude changes, we presented sinusoidally amplitude modulated (SAM) signals monaurally to awake, restrained bats and recorded the responses of single neurons extracellularly. There were clear differences in the ability of neurons in the different cell groups to respond to SAM. In the VNLLm, INLL and DNLL, 90% of neurons responded to SAM with a synchronous discharge. Neurons in the VNLLc responded poorly or not at all to SAM signals. This finding was unexpected given the precise onset responses of VNLLc neurons to unmodulated tones and their ability to respond synchronously to sinusoidally frequency modulated (SFM) signals. Among neurons that responded synchronously to SAM, synchronization as a function of modulation rate described either a bandpass or a lowpass function, with the majority of bandpass functions in neurons that responded to unmodulated tones with a sustained discharge. The maximal modulation rates that elicited synchronous responses were similar for the different cell groups, ranging from 320 Hz in VNLLm to 230 Hz in DNLL. The range of best modulation rates was greater for SAM than for SFM; this was also true of the range of maximal modulation rates at which synchronous discharge occurred. There was little correlation between a neuron's best modulation rate or maximal modulation rate for SAM signals and those for SFM signals, suggesting that responsiveness to amplitude and frequency modulations depends on different neural processing mechanisms.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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