Intrinsic physiological properties underlie auditory response diversity in the avian cochlear nucleus
David H. Brown, Richard L. Hyson
Journal of Neurophysiology
Sensory systems exploit parallel processing of stimulus features to enable rapid, simultaneous extraction of information. Mechanisms that facilitate this differential extraction of stimulus features can be intrinsic or synaptic in origin. A subdivision of the avian cochlear nucleus, nucleus angularis (NA), extracts sound intensity information from the auditory nerve and contains neurons that exhibit diverse responses to sound and current injection. NA neurons project to multiple regions
... g the auditory brain stem including the superior olivary nucleus, lateral lemniscus, and avian inferior colliculus, with functional implications for inhibitory gain control and sound localization. Here we investigated whether the diversity of auditory response patterns in NA can be accounted for by variation in intrinsic physiological features. Modeled sound-evoked auditory nerve input was applied to NA neurons with dynamic clamp during in vitro whole cell recording at room temperature. Temporal responses to auditory nerve input depended on variation in intrinsic properties, and the low-threshold K+ current was implicated as a major contributor to temporal response diversity and neuronal input-output functions. An auditory nerve model of acoustic amplitude modulation produced synchrony coding of modulation frequency that depended on the intrinsic physiology of the individual neuron. In Primary-Like neurons, varying low-threshold K+ conductance with dynamic clamp altered temporal modulation tuning bidirectionally. Taken together, these data suggest that intrinsic physiological properties play a key role in shaping auditory response diversity to both simple and more naturalistic auditory stimuli in the avian cochlear nucleus. NEW & NOTEWORTHY This article addresses the question of how the nervous system extracts different information in sounds. Neurons in the cochlear nucleus show diverse responses to acoustic stimuli that may allow for parallel processing of acoustic features. The present studies suggest that diversity in intrinsic physiological features of individual neurons, including levels of a low voltage-activated K+ current, play a major role in regulating the diversity of auditory responses.