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J Neurophysiol. 2007 Apr;97(4):2863-74. Epub 2007 Jan 24.

A role for short-term synaptic facilitation and depression in the processing of intensity information in the auditory brain stem.

Author information

1
Dept. of Biology, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742, USA. macleod@umd.edu

Abstract

The nature of the synaptic connection from the auditory nerve onto the cochlear nucleus neurons has a profound impact on how sound information is transmitted. Short-term synaptic plasticity, by dynamically modulating synaptic strength, filters information contained in the firing patterns. In the sound-localization circuits of the brain stem, the synapses of the timing pathway are characterized by strong short-term depression. We investigated the short-term synaptic plasticity of the inputs to the bird's cochlear nucleus angularis (NA), which encodes intensity information, by using chick embryonic brain slices and trains of electrical stimulation. These excitatory inputs expressed a mixture of short-term facilitation and depression, unlike those in the timing nuclei that only depressed. Facilitation and depression at NA synapses were balanced such that postsynaptic response amplitude was often maintained throughout the train at high firing rates (>100 Hz). The steady-state input rate relationship of the balanced synapses linearly conveyed rate information and therefore transmits intensity information encoded as a rate code in the nerve. A quantitative model of synaptic transmission could account for the plasticity by including facilitation of release (with a time constant of approximately 40 ms), and a two-step recovery from depression (with one slow time constant of approximately 8 s, and one fast time constant of approximately 20 ms). A simulation using the model fit to NA synapses and auditory nerve spike trains from recordings in vivo confirmed that these synapses can convey intensity information contained in natural train inputs.

PMID:
17251365
PMCID:
PMC3268177
DOI:
10.1152/jn.01030.2006
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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