The strength of synapses between auditory nerve (AN) fibers and ventral cochlear nucleus (VCN) neurons is an important factor in determining the nature of neural integration in VCN neurons of different response types. Synaptic strength was analyzed using cross-correlation of spike trains recorded simultaneously from an AN fiber and a VCN neuron in anesthetized cats. VCN neurons were classified as chopper, primarylike, and onset using previously defined criteria, although onset neurons usually were not analyzed because of their low discharge rates. The correlograms showed an excitatory peak (EP), consistent with monosynaptic excitation, in AN-VCN pairs with similar best frequencies (49% 24/49 of pairs with best frequencies within ±5%). Chopper and primarylike neurons showed similar EPs, except that the primarylike neurons had shorter latencies and shorter-duration EPs. Large EPs consistent with endbulb terminals on spherical bushy cells were not observed, probably because of the low probability of recording from one. The small EPs observed in primarylike neurons, presumably spherical bushy cells, could be derived from small terminals that accompany endbulbs on these cells. EPs on chopper or primarylike-with-notch neurons were consistent with the smaller synaptic terminals on multipolar and globular bushy cells. Unexpectedly, EPs were observed only at sound levels within about 20 dB of threshold, showing that VCN responses to steady tones shift from a 1:1 relationship between AN and VCN spikes at low sound levels to a more autonomous mode of firing at high levels. In the high level mode, the pattern of output spikes seems to be determined by the properties of the postsynaptic spike generator rather than the input spike patterns. The EP amplitudes did not change significantly when the presynaptic spike was preceded by either a short or long interspike interval, suggesting that synaptic depression and facilitation have little effect under the conditions studied here.
cross-correlation; ventral cochlear nucleus; synaptic strength
This report introduces a system for the objective physiological classification of single-unit activity in the anteroventral cochlear nucleus (AVCN) of anesthetized CBA/129 and CBA/CaJ mice. As in previous studies, the decision criteria are based on the temporal properties of responses to short tone bursts that are visualized in the form of peri-stimulus time histograms (PSTHs). Individual unit types are defined by the statistical distribution of quantifiable metrics that relate to the onset latency, regularity, and adaptation of sound-driven discharge rates. Variations of these properties reflect the unique synaptic organizations and intrinsic membrane properties that dictate the selective tuning of sound coding in the AVCN. When these metrics are applied to the mouse AVCN, responses to best frequency (BF) tones reproduce the major PSTH patterns that have been previously demonstrated in other mammalian species. The consistency of response types in two genetically diverse strains of laboratory mice suggests that the present classification system is appropriate for additional strains with normal peripheral function. The general agreement of present findings to established classifications validates laboratory mice as an adequate model for general principles of mammalian sound coding. Nevertheless, important differences are noted for the reliability of specialized endbulb transmission within the AVCN, suggesting less secure temporal coding in this high-frequency species.
peri-stimulus time histograms; onset latency; regularity analysis; prepotential; rate adaptation
A subset of neurons in the cochlear nucleus (CN) of the auditory brainstem has the ability to enhance the auditory nerve's temporal representation of stimulating sounds. These neurons reside in the ventral region of the CN (VCN) and are usually known as highly synchronized, or high-sync, neurons. Most published reports about the existence and properties of high-sync neurons are based on recordings performed on a VCN output tract—not the VCN itself—of cats. In other species, comprehensive studies detailing the properties of high-sync neurons, or even acknowledging their existence, are missing.
Examination of the responses of a population of VCN neurons in chinchillas revealed that a subset of those neurons have temporal properties similar to high-sync neurons in the cat. Phase locking and entrainment—the ability of a neuron to fire action potentials at a certain stimulus phase and at almost every stimulus period, respectively—have similar maximum values in cats and chinchillas. Ranges of characteristic frequencies for high-sync neurons in chinchillas and cats extend up to 600 and 1000 Hz, respectively. Enhancement of temporal processing relative to auditory nerve fibers (ANFs), which has been shown previously in cats using tonal and white-noise stimuli, is also demonstrated here in the responses of VCN neurons to synthetic and spoken vowel sounds.
Along with the large amount of phase locking displayed by some VCN neurons there occurs a deterioration in the spectral representation of the stimuli (tones or vowels). High-sync neurons exhibit a greater distortion in their responses to tones or vowels than do other types of VCN neurons and auditory nerve fibers.
Standard deviations of first-spike latency measured in responses of high-sync neurons are lower than similar values measured in ANFs' responses. This might indicate a role of high-sync neurons in other tasks beyond sound localization.
Studies of developmental plasticity may provide insight into plasticity during adulthood, when neural circuitry is less responsive to losses or changes in input. In the mammalian auditory brainstem, globular bushy cell axons of the ventral cochlear nucleus (VCN) innervate the contralateral medial nucleus of the trapezoid body (MNTB) principal neurons. VCN axonal terminations in MNTB, known as calyces of Held, are very large and specialized for high-fidelity transmission of auditory information. Following unilateral deafferentation during postnatal development, VCN axons from the intact side form connections with novel targets, including the ipsilateral MNTB. EphB signaling has been shown to play a role in this process during the first postnatal week, but mechanisms involved in this reorganization during later developmental periods remain unknown.
We found that EphB2 signaling reduces the number of induced ipsilateral projections to the MNTB after unilateral VCN removal at postnatal day seven (P7), but not after removal of the VCN on one side at P10, after the closure of the critical period for lesion-induced innervation of the ipsilateral MNTB.
Results from this study indicate that molecular mechanisms involved in the development of circuitry may also play a part in rewiring after deafferentation during development, but do not appear to regulate the length of critical periods for plasticity.
MNTB; auditory; brainstem; axon guidance; deafferentation; regeneration
Much of what is known about how the cochlear nuclei participate in mammalian hearing comes from studies of non-primate mammalian species. To determine to what extent the cochlear nuclei of primates resemble those of other mammalian orders, we have recorded responses to sound in three primate species: marmosets, Cynomolgus macaques, and squirrel monkeys. These recordings show that the same types of temporal firing patterns are found in primates that have been described in other mammals. Responses to tones of neurons in the ventral cochlear nucleus have similar tuning, latencies, post-stimulus time and interspike interval histograms as those recorded in non-primate cochlear nucleus neurons. In the dorsal cochlear nucleus, too, responses were similar. From these results it is evident that insights gained from non-primate studies can be applied to the peripheral auditory system of primates.
Primates; Response properties; Cochlear nucleus; Auditory system
Precision in auditory brainstem connectivity underlies sound localization. Cochlear activity is transmitted to the ventral cochlear nucleus (VCN) in the mammalian brainstem via the auditory nerve. VCN globular bushy cells project to the contralateral medial nucleus of the trapezoid body (MNTB), where specialized axons terminals, the calyces of Held, encapsulate MNTB principal neurons. The VCN-MNTB pathway is an essential component of the circuitry used to compute interaural intensity differences that are used for localizing sounds. When input from one ear is removed during early postnatal development, auditory brainstem circuitry displays robust anatomical plasticity. The molecular mechanisms that control the development of auditory brainstem circuitry and the developmental plasticity of these pathways are poorly understood. In this study we examined the role of EphB signaling in the development of the VCN-MNTB projection and in the reorganization of this pathway after unilateral deafferentation. We found that EphB2 and EphB3 reverse signaling are critical for the normal development of the projection from VCN to MNTB, but that successful circuit assembly most likely relies upon the coordinated function of many EphB proteins. We have also found that ephrin-B reverse signaling repels induced projections to the ipsilateral MNTB after unilateral deafferentation, suggesting that similar mechanisms regulate these two processes.
EphB; ephrin-B; VCN; MNTB; deafferentation
Responses to tones of a basilar membrane site and of auditory nerve fibers innervating neighboring inner hair cells were recorded in the same cochleae in chinchillas. At near-threshold stimulus levels, the frequency tuning of auditory nerve fibers closely paralleled that of basilar membrane displacement modified by high-pass filtering, indicating that only relatively minor signal transformations intervene between mechanical vibration and auditory nerve excitation. This finding establishes that cochlear frequency selectivity in chinchillas (and probably in mammals in general) is fully expressed in the vibrations of the basilar membrane and renders unnecessary additional (“second”) filters, such as those present in the hair cells of the cochleae of reptiles.
The impulse discharge of single on-off neurons and a graded field potential, the proximal negative response (PNR), were simultaneously recorded with an extracellular microelectrode in the inner frog retina. Normalized amplitude-intensity functions for the on-response of the PNR and the neuron's post-stimulus time histogram (PSTH) were nearly coincident and typically showed a dynamic range spanning approximately 2 log units of intensity. Thus a nearly linear relation is found between the amplitude of the PNR and the neuron's PSTH. A neuron's PSTH amplitude and maximum instantaneous frequency of discharge were usually highly correlated, but occasional marked disparities indicate that temporal jitter of the first spike latency is an additional, relatively independent variable influencing PSTH amplitude. It typically changes by a factor of 20–30 over the intensity range. These and other findings have implications for the functional significance of the PNR and the PSTH, for a possible linear link between amacrine and on-off ganglion cells, and for a mechanism of intensity coding in which temporal jitter of latency exerts a major role.
The response of a neuron to a time-dependent stimulus, as measured in a Peri-Stimulus-Time-Histogram (PSTH), exhibits an intricate temporal structure that reflects potential temporal coding principles. Here we analyze the encoding and decoding of PSTHs for spiking neurons with arbitrary refractoriness and adaptation. As a modeling framework, we use the spike response model, also known as the generalized linear neuron model. Because of refractoriness, the effect of the most recent spike on the spiking probability a few milliseconds later is very strong. The influence of the last spike needs therefore to be described with high precision, while the rest of the neuronal spiking history merely introduces an average self-inhibition or adaptation that depends on the expected number of past spikes but not on the exact spike timings. Based on these insights, we derive a ‘quasi-renewal equation’ which is shown to yield an excellent description of the firing rate of adapting neurons. We explore the domain of validity of the quasi-renewal equation and compare it with other rate equations for populations of spiking neurons. The problem of decoding the stimulus from the population response (or PSTH) is addressed analogously. We find that for small levels of activity and weak adaptation, a simple accumulator of the past activity is sufficient to decode the original input, but when refractory effects become large decoding becomes a non-linear function of the past activity. The results presented here can be applied to the mean-field analysis of coupled neuron networks, but also to arbitrary point processes with negative self-interaction.
How can information be encoded and decoded in populations of adapting neurons? A quantitative answer to this question requires a mathematical expression relating neuronal activity to the external stimulus, and, conversely, stimulus to neuronal activity. Although widely used equations and models exist for the special problem of relating external stimulus to the action potentials of a single neuron, the analogous problem of relating the external stimulus to the activity of a population has proven more difficult. There is a bothersome gap between the dynamics of single adapting neurons and the dynamics of populations. Moreover, if we ignore the single neurons and describe directly the population dynamics, we are faced with the ambiguity of the adapting neural code. The neural code of adapting populations is ambiguous because it is possible to observe a range of population activities in response to a given instantaneous input. Somehow the ambiguity is resolved by the knowledge of the population history, but how precisely? In this article we use approximation methods to provide mathematical expressions that describe the encoding and decoding of external stimuli in adapting populations. The theory presented here helps to bridge the gap between the dynamics of single neurons and that of populations.
During an inspiration the output of hypoglossal (XII) motoneurons (HMs) in vitro is characterized by synchronous oscillatory firing in the 20 to 40 Hz range. In order to maintain synchronicity it is important that the cells fire with high reliability and precision. It is not known whether the intrinsic properties of HMs are tuned to maintain synchronicity when stimulated with time-varying inputs. We intracellularly recorded from HMs in an in vitro brainstem slice preparation from juvenile mice. Cells were held at or near spike threshold and were stimulated with steady or swept (ZAP) sine wave current functions (10 s duration; 0-40 Hz range). Peri-stimulus time histograms (PSTHs) were constructed from spike times based on threshold crossings. Synaptic transmission was suppressed by including blockers of GABAergic, glycinergic and glutamatergic neurotransmission in the bath solution. Cells responded to sine wave stimulation with bursts of action potentials at low (<3-5 Hz) sine wave frequency while they phase-locked 1:1 to the stimulus at intermediate frequencies (3-25 Hz). Beyond the 1:1 frequency range cells were able to phase-lock to sub-harmonics (1:2, 1:3 or 1:4) of the input frequency. The 1:1 phase-locking range increased with increasing stimulus amplitude and membrane depolarization. Reliability and spike timing precision was highest when the cells phase-locked 1:1 to the stimulus.
Our findings suggests that the coding of time-varying inspiratory synaptic inputs by individual HMs is most reliable and precise at frequencies that are generally lower than the frequency of the synchronous inspiratory oscillatory activity recorded from the XII nerve.
respiration; motoneuron; patch-clamp
Loudness recruitment, an abnormally rapid growth of perceived loudness with sound level, is a common symptom of sensorineural hearing loss. Following acoustic trauma, auditory-nerve rate responses are reduced, and rate grows more slowly with sound level, which seems inconsistent with recruitment (Heinz et al., J. Assoc. Res. Otolaryngol. 6:91–105, 2005). However, rate-level functions (RLFs) in the central nervous system may increase in either slope or saturation value following trauma (e.g., Salvi et al., Hear. Res. 147:261–274, 2000), suggesting that recruitment may arise from central changes. In this paper, we studied RLFs of neurons in ventral cochlear nucleus (VCN) of the cat after acoustic trauma. Trauma did not change the general properties of VCN neurons, and the usual VCN functional classifications remained valid (chopper, primary-like, onset, etc.). After trauma, non-primary-like neurons, most noticeably choppers, exhibited elevated maximum discharge rates and steeper RLFs for frequencies at and near best frequency (BF). Primary-like neurons showed the opposite changes. To relate the neurons’ responses to recruitment, rate-balance functions were computed; these show the sound level required to give equal rates in a normal and a traumatized ear and are analogous to loudness balance functions that show the sound levels giving equal perceptual loudness in the two ears of a monaurally hearing-impaired person. The rate-balance functions showed recruitment-like steepening of their slopes in non-primary-like neurons in all conditions. However, primary-like neurons showed recruitment-like behavior only when rates were summated across neurons of all BFs. These results suggest that the non-primary-like, especially chopper, neurons may be the most peripheral site of the physiological changes in the brain that underlie recruitment.
ventral cochlear nucleus; acoustic trauma; sensorineural hearing loss; loudness recruitment; hyperacusis; auditory nerve; neuroplasticity; sound intensity; sound level; neural encoding; rate-level function; bushy cell; stellate cell; primary-like units; chopper units
The cochlear nucleus (CN) presents a unique opportunity for quantitatively studying input-output transformations by neurons because it gives rise to a variety of different response types from a relatively homogeneous input source, the auditory nerve (AN). Particularly interesting among CN neurons are Onset (On) neurons, which have a prominent response to the onset of sustained sounds followed by little or no response in the steady-state. On neurons contrast sharply with their AN inputs, which respond vigorously throughout stimuli. On neurons can entrain to stimuli (firing once per cycle of a periodic stimulus) at up to 1000 Hz, unlike their AN inputs. To understand the mechanisms underlying these response patterns, we tested whether an integrate-to-threshold point-neuron model with a fixed refractory period can account for On discharge patterns for tones, systematically examining the effect of membrane time constant and the number and strength of the exclusively excitatory AN synaptic inputs. To produce both onset responses to high-frequency tone bursts and entrainment to a broad range of low-frequency tones, the model must have a short time constant (≈0.125 ms) and a large number (>100) of weak synaptic inputs, properties that are consistent with the electrical properties and anatomy of On-responding cells. With these parameters, the model acts like a coincidence detector with a threshold-like relationship between the instantaneous discharge rates of the output and the inputs. Onset responses to high-frequency tone bursts result because the threshold effect enhances the initial response of the AN inputs and suppresses their relatively lower sustained response. However, when the model entrains across a broad range of frequencies, it also produces short interspike intervals at the onset of high-frequency tone bursts, a response pattern not found in all types of On neurons. These results show a tradeoff, that may be a general property of many neurons, between following rapid stimulus fluctuations and responding without short interspike intervals at the onset of sustained stimuli.
integrate-and-fire model; coincidence detection; cochlear nucleus
A phenomenological model with time-varying excitation and inhibition was developed to study possible neural mechanisms underlying changes in the representation of temporal envelopes along the auditory pathway. A modified version of an existing auditory-nerve model [Zhang et al., J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 109, 648–670 (2001)] was used to provide inputs to higher hypothetical processing centers. Model responses were compared directly to published physiological data at three levels: the auditory nerve, ventral cochlear nucleus, and inferior colliculus. Trends and absolute values of both average firing rate and synchrony to the modulation period were accurately predicted at each level for a wide range of stimulus modulation depths and modulation frequencies. The diversity of central physiological responses was accounted for with realistic variations of model parameters. Specifically, enhanced synchrony in the cochlear nucleus and rate-tuning to modulation frequency in the inferior colliculus were predicted by choosing appropriate relative strengths and time courses of excitatory and inhibitory inputs to postsynaptic model cells. The proposed model is fundamentally different than others that have been used to explain the representation of envelopes in the mammalian midbrain, and it provides a computational tool for testing hypothesized relationships between physiology and psychophysics.
Geometry of the dendritic tree and synaptic organization of afferent inputs are essential factors in determining how synaptic input is integrated by neurons. This information remains elusive for one of the first brainstem neurons involved in processing of the primary auditory signal from the ear, the bushy cells (BCs) of the ventral cochlear nucleus (VCN). Here, we labeled the BC dendritic trees with retrograde tracing techniques to analyze their geometry and synaptic organization after immunofluorescence for excitatory and inhibitory synaptic markers, electron microscopy, morphometry, double tract-tracing methods, and 3-D reconstructions. Our study revealed that BC dendrites provide space for a large number of compartmentalized excitatory and inhibitory synaptic interactions. The dendritic inputs on BCs are of cochlear and non-cochlear origin, and their proportion and distribution are dependent on the branching pattern and orientation of the dendritic tree in the VCN. Three-dimensional reconstructions showed that BC dendrites branch and cluster with those of other BCs in the core of the VCN. Within the cluster, incoming synaptic inputs establish divergent multiple-contact synapses (dyads and triads) between BCs. Furthermore, neuron-neuron connections including puncta adherentia, sarcoplasmic junctions and gap junctions are common between BCs, which suggests that these neurons are electrically coupled. Together, our study demonstrates the existence of a BC network in the rat VCN. This network may establish the neuroanatomical basis for acoustic information processing by individual BCs, as well as for enhanced synchronization of the output signal of the VCN.
cochlear nucleus; electron microscopy; gap junctions; immunofluorescence; synchronization; 3D-Reconstruction
Acoustic information is brought to the brain by auditory nerve fibers, all of which terminate in the cochlear nuclei, and is passed up the auditory pathway through the principal cells of the cochlear nuclei. A population of neurons variously known as T stellate, type I multipolar, planar multipolar, or chopper cells forms one of the major ascending auditory pathways through the brain stem. T Stellate cells are sharply tuned; as a population they encode the spectrum of sounds. In these neurons, phasic excitation from the auditory nerve is made more tonic by feed forward excitation, coactivation of inhibitory with excitatory inputs, relatively large excitatory currents through NMDA receptors, and relatively little synaptic depression. The mechanisms that make firing tonic also obscure the fine structure of sounds that is represented in the excitatory inputs from the auditory nerve and account for the characteristic chopping response patterns with which T stellate cells respond to tones. In contrast with other principal cells of the ventral cochlear nucleus (VCN), T stellate cells lack a low-voltage-activated potassium conductance and are therefore sensitive to small, steady, neuromodulating currents. The presence of cholinergic, serotonergic and noradrenergic receptors allows the excitability of these cells to be modulated by medial olivocochlear efferent neurons and by neuronal circuits associated with arousal. T Stellate cells deliver acoustic information to the ipsilateral dorsal cochlear nucleus (DCN), ventral nucleus of the trapezoid body (VNTB), periolivary regions around the lateral superior olivary nucleus (LSO), and to the contralateral ventral lemniscal nuclei (VNLL) and inferior colliculus (IC). It is likely that T stellate cells participate in feedback loops through both medial and lateral olivocochlear efferent neurons and they may be a source of ipsilateral excitation of the LSO.
ventral cochlear nucleus; brainstem auditory pathways; ion channels; patch-clamp recording
Commissural neurons connect the cochlear nucleus complexes of both ears. Previous studies have suggested that the neurons may be separated into two anatomical subtypes on the basis of percent apposition (PA); that is, the percentage of the soma apposed by synaptic terminals. The present study combined tract tracing with synaptic immunolabeling to compare the soma area, relative number, and location of Type I (low PA) and Type II (high PA) commissural neurons in the ventral cochlear nucleus (VCN) of rats. Confocal microscopic analysis revealed that 261 of 377 (69%) commissural neurons have medium-sized somata with Type I axosomatic innervation. The commissural neurons also showed distinct topographical distributions. The majority of Type I neurons were located in the small cell cap of the VCN, which serves as a nexus for regulatory pathways within the auditory brainstem. Most Type II neurons were found in the magnocellular core. This anatomical dichotomy should broaden current views on the function of the commissural pathway that stress the fast inhibitory interactions generated by Type II neurons. The more prevalent Type I neurons may underlie slow regulatory influences that enhance binaural processing or the recovery of function after injury.
binaural hearing; commissural pathways; regulatory pathways; multipolar cells; stellate cells; deconvolution
Preliminary measurements of the representation in the cochlear nucleus (CN) of harmonic tones, harmonic tones with mistuned components, and double harmonic tones are reported. These data indicate that, unlike auditory nerve fibers and IC neurons, neurons in the CN may exhibit one of several qualitatively-different response patterns when stimulated with mistuned tones. Primarylike neurons synchronized their discharges to 2–3 individual stimulus components, much like auditory nerve fibers do. Chopper neurons tended to respond with the periodicity of envelopes produced by interactions between adjacent stimulus components but exhibited little or no response synchronized to individual stimulus components. A small proportion of CN neurons exhibited complex slowly-modulated discharge patterns similar to those that are commonly observed in the inferior colliculus (IC). The patterns obtained from CN neurons with different pure-tone discharge patterns were generally consistent with expectations based on previous studies with other stimuli. The measurements provided additional insight into the hierarchical processing stages that result in the highly patterned responses of IC neurons to harmonic and mistuned tones.
cochlear nucleus; chinchilla; complex sounds; spectral segregation; auditory scene analysis
The contour of the postsynaptic potential (PSP) produced in a neurone by an afferent volley can be derived from the contour of the post-stimulus time histogram (PSTH) of that neurone when it is discharging rhythmically. In the present study the PSTH of the firing of individual soleus motor units after stimulation of the popliteal or peroneal nerve was used to explore the effects of extensor and flexor group I afferent volleys on the excitability of single soleus motoneurones in man. Extensor group I volleys resulted in an early peak of increased impulse density in the PSTH of 75% of soleus motoneurones. The latency suggests an analogy with the Ia EPSP. The mean duration of the peak of increased impulse density, equivalent to the rise time of the EPSP, was 3.6 ms. Flexor group I volleys result in a period of reduced impulse density in the PSTH of five out of nine soleus motoneurones. The latency suggests an analogy with the Ia IPSP. We conclude that this method could be used to explore the afferent connections to single motoneurones in man and to derive some of the characteristics of the postsynaptic potentials from a variety of afferent nerve fibres in single human motoneurones.
Sound localization requires precise and specialized neural circuitry. A prominent and well-studied specialization is found in the mammalian auditory brainstem. Globular bushy cells of the ventral cochlear nucleus (VCN) project contralaterally to neurons of the medial nucleus of the trapezoid body (MNTB), where their large axons terminate on cell bodies of MNTB principal neurons, forming the calyces of Held. The VCN-MNTB pathway is necessary for the accurate computation of interaural intensity and time differences; MNTB neurons provide inhibitory input to the lateral superior olive, which compares levels of excitation from the ipsilateral ear to levels of tonotopically matched inhibition from the contralateral ear, and to the medial superior olive, where precise inhibition from MNTB neurons tunes the delays of binaural excitation. Here we review the morphological and physiological aspects of the development of the VCN-MNTB pathway and its calyceal termination, along with potential mechanisms that give rise to its precision. During embryonic development, VCN axons grow towards the midline, cross the midline into the region of the presumptive MNTB and then form collateral branches that will terminate in calyces of Held. In rodents, immature calyces of Held appear in MNTB during the first few days of postnatal life. These calyces mature morphologically and physiologically over the next three postnatal weeks, enabling fast, high fidelity transmission in the VCN-MNTB pathway.
Considerable circumstantial evidence suggests that cells in the ventral cochlear
nucleus, that respond predominantly to the onset of pure tone bursts, have a
stellate morphology and project, among other places, to the dorsal cochlear nucleus.
The characteristics of such cells make them leading candidates for providing the
so-called “wideband inhibitory input” which is an essential part of the processing
machinery of the dorsal cochlear nucleus. Here we use juxtacellular labeling with
biocytin to demonstrate directly that large stellate cells, with onset responses,
terminate profusely in the dorsal cochlear nucleus. They also provide widespread
local innervation of the anteroventral cochlear nucleus and a small innervation of
the posteroventral cochlear nucleus. In addition, some onset cells project to the
contralateral dorsal cochlear nucleus.
stellate cells; anteroventral cochlear nucleus; dorsal cochlear nucleus; wideband inhibitor; onset responses
This review outlines the anatomical and functional bases of somatosensory influences on auditory processing in the normal brainstem and midbrain. Thereafter, it explores how interactions between the auditory and somatosensory system are modified through deafness and their impact on tinnitus is discussed.
literature-review, tract-tracing, immunohistochemistry, in vivo electrophysiological recordings
Somatosensory input originates in the dorsal root ganglia (DRG) and trigeminal ganglia (TG) and is transmitted directly and indirectly through second order nuclei to the ventral and dorsal cochlear nucleus (VCN, DCN) and inferior colliculus (IC). The glutamatergic somatosensory afferents can be segregated from auditory nerve inputs by the type of vesicular glutamate transporters present in their terminals. Electrical stimulation of the somatosensory input results in a complex combination of excitation and inhibition and alters the rate and timing of responses to acoustic stimulation.
Deafness increases the spontaneous rates of those neurons that receive excitatory somatosensory input, and results in a greater sensitivity of DCN neurons to trigeminal stimulation.
Auditory-somatosensory bimodal integration is already present in first order auditory nuclei. The balance of excitation and inhibition elicited by somatosensory input is altered following deafness. The increase in somatosensory influence on auditory neurons when their auditory input is diminished could be due to cross modal re-innervation or increased synaptic strength, and may contribute to mechanisms underlying somatic tinnitus.
Auditory system; Cochlear nucleus; Inferior colliculus; Trigeminal; Reticular formation; Somatosensory; Non-auditory projections; Tinnitus; Deafness; Bimodal plasticity
Multiple parallel auditory pathways ascend from the cochlear nucleus. It is generally accepted that the origin of these pathways are distinct groups of neurons differing in their anatomical and physiological properties. In extracellular in vivo recordings these neurons are typically classified on the basis of their peri-stimulus time histogram. In the present study we reconsider the question of classification of neurons in the anteroventral cochlear nucleus (AVCN) by taking a wider range of response properties into account. The study aims at a better understanding of the AVCN's functional organization and its significance as the source of different ascending auditory pathways. The analyses were based on 223 neurons recorded in the AVCN of the Mongolian gerbil. The range of analysed parameters encompassed spontaneous activity, frequency coding, sound level coding, as well as temporal coding. In order to categorize the unit sample without any presumptions as to the relevance of certain response parameters, hierarchical cluster analysis and additional principal component analysis were employed which both allow a classification on the basis of a multitude of parameters simultaneously. Even with the presently considered wider range of parameters, high number of neurons and more advanced analytical methods, no clear boundaries emerged which would separate the neurons based on their physiology. At the current resolution of the analysis, we therefore conclude that the AVCN units more likely constitute a multi-dimensional continuum with different physiological characteristics manifested at different poles. However, more complex stimuli could be useful to uncover physiological differences in future studies.
Electrophysiological studies from mice in vitro have suggested that octopus cells of the mammalian ventral cochlear nucleus (VCN) are anatomically and biophysically specialized for detecting the coincident firing of a population of auditory nerve fibers. Recordings from cats in vivo have shown that octopus cells fire rapidly and with exceptional temporal precision as they convey the timing of that coincidence to higher auditory centers. The current study addresses the question whether the biophysical properties of octopus cells that have until now been examined only in mice, are shared by octopus cells in cats. Whole-cell patch-clamp recordings confirm that octopus cells in brain slices from kittens share the anatomical and biophysical features of octopus cells in mice. As in mice, octopus cells in kittens have large cell bodies and thick dendrites that extend in one direction. Voltage changes produced by depolarizing and hyperpolarizing current injection were small and rapid. Input resistances and membrane time constants in octopus cells of 16-day-old kittens were 15.8 ± 1.5 MΩ (n = 16) and 1.28 ± 0.3 ms (n = 16), respectively. Octopus cells fired only a single action potential at the onset of a depolarizing current pulse; suprathreshold stimuli were greater than 1.8 nA. A tetrodotoxin (TTX)-sensitive sodium conductance (gNa) was responsible for the generation of the action potentials. Octopus cells displayed outward rectification that lasted for the duration of the depolarizing pulses. Hyperpolarizations produced by the injection of current exhibited a depolarizing sag of the membrane potential toward the resting value. A 4-aminopyridine (4-AP) and α-dendrotoxin (α-DTX)-sensitive, low-voltage-activated potassium conductance (gKL) and a ZD7288-sensitive, mixed-cation conductance (gh) were partially activated at rest, giving the octopus cells low input resistances and, as a consequence, brief time constants. In 7-day-old kittens, action potentials were taller and broader, input resistances higher, and both inward and outward rectification was weaker than in 16-day-old kittens. Also as in mice, stellate cells of the VCN fired trains of action potentials with constant interspike intervals when they were depolarized (n = 10) and bushy cells of the VCN fired only a single action potential at the onset of depolarizations (n = 6). In conclusion, the similarity of octopus cells in mice and kittens suggests that the anatomical and biophysical specializations that allow octopus cells to detect and convey synchronous firing among auditory nerve fibers are common to all mammals.
auditory pathways; cochlear nucleus; octopus cell; patch clamp; cat
Neurons restore their function in response to external or internal perturbations and maintain neuronal or network stability through a homeostatic scaling mechanism. Homeostatic responses at synapses along the auditory system would be important for adaptation to normal and abnormal fluctuations in the sensory environment. We investigated at the electron microscopic level and after postembedding immunogold labeling whether projection neurons in the cochlear nucleus responded to modifications of auditory nerve activity. After unilaterally reducing the level of auditory inputs by ~ 20 dB by monaural earplugging, auditory nerve synapses on bushy cells somata and basal dendrites of fusiform cells of the ventral and dorsal cochlear nucleus, respectively, upregulated GluR3 AMPA receptor subunit, while inhibitory synapses decreased the expression of GlyRα1 subunit. These changes in expression levels were fully reversible once the earplug was removed, indicating that activity affects the trafficking of receptors at synapses. Excitatory synapses on apical dendrites of fusiform cells (parallel fibers) with different synaptic AMPA receptor subunit composition, were not affected by sound attenuation, as the expression levels of AMPA receptor subunits were the same as in normal hearing littermates. GlyRα1 subunit expression at inhibitory synapses on apical dendrites of fusiform cells was also found unaffected. Furthermore, fusiform and bushy cells of the contralateral side to the earplugging upregulated the GluR3 subunit at auditory nerve synapses. These results show that cochlear nucleus neurons innervated by the auditory nerve, are able to respond to small changes in sound levels by redistributing specific AMPA and glycine receptor subunits.
earplugging; glutamate receptors; glycine α1 subunit; postembedding immunogold labeling; ultrastructure
Onset (On) neurons in the cochlear nucleus (CN), characterized by their prominent response to the onset followed by little or no response to the steady-state of sustained stimuli, have a remarkable ability to entrain (firing 1 spike per cycle of a periodic stimulus) to low-frequency tones up to 1000 Hz. In this article, we present a point-neuron model with independent, excitatory auditory-nerve (AN) inputs that accounts for the ability of On neurons to both produce onset responses for high-frequency tone bursts and entrain to a wide range of low-frequency tones. With a fixed-duration spike-blocking state after a spike (an absolute refractory period), the model produces entrainment to a broad range of low-frequency tones and an On response with short interspike intervals (chopping) for high-frequency tone bursts. To produce On response patterns with no chopping, we introduce a novel, more complex, active membrane model in which the spike-blocking state is maintained until the instantaneous membrane voltage falls below a transition voltage. During the sustained depolarization for a high-frequency tone burst, the new model does not chop because it enters a spike-blocking state after the first spike and fails to leave this state until the membrane voltage returns toward rest at the end of the stimulus. The model entrains to low-frequency tones because the membrane voltage falls below the transition voltage on every cycle when the AN inputs are phase-locked. With the complex membrane model, On response patterns having moderate steady-state activity for high-frequency tone bursts (On-L) are distinguished from those having no steady-state activity (On-I) by requiring fewer AN inputs. Voltage-gated ion channels found in On-responding neurons of the CN may underlie the hypothesized dynamic spike-blocking state. These results provide a mechanistic rationale for distinguishing between the different physiological classes of CN On neurons.
refractory period; state-dependent spike discharge; voltage-gated ion channels; cochlear nucleus