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1.  Astrocyte-Secreted Factors Modulate the Developmental Distribution of Inhibitory Synapses in Nucleus Laminaris of the Avian Auditory Brainstem 
The Journal of comparative neurology  2012;520(6):1262-1277.
Nucleus laminaris (NL) neurons in the avian auditory brainstem are coincidence detectors necessary for the computation of interaural time differences used in sound localization. In addition to their excitatory inputs from nucleus magnocellularis, NL neurons receive inhibitory inputs from the superior olivary nucleus (SON) that greatly improve coincidence detection in mature animals. The mechanisms that establish mature distributions of inhibitory inputs to NL are not known. We used the vesicular GABA transporter (VGAT) as a marker for inhibitory presynaptic terminals to study the development of inhibitory inputs to NL between embryonic day 9 (E9) and E17. VGAT immunofluorescent puncta were first seen sparsely in NL at E9. The density of VGAT puncta increased with development, first within the ventral NL neuropil region and subsequently throughout both the ventral and dorsal dendritic neuropil, with significantly fewer terminals in the cell body region. A large increase in density occurred between E13–15 and E16–17, at a developmental stage when astrocytes that express glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) become mature. We cultured E13 brainstem slices together with astrocyte-conditioned medium (ACM) obtained from E16 brainstems and found that ACM, but not control medium, increased the density of VGAT puncta. This increase was similar to that observed during normal development. Astrocyte-secreted factors interact with the terminal ends of SON axons to increase the number of GABAergic terminals. These data suggest that factors secreted from GFAP-positive astrocytes promote maturation of inhibitory pathways in the auditory brainstem.
PMCID: PMC3926803  PMID: 22020566
astrocytes; inhibitory synapses; auditory brainstem; nucleus laminaris; synaptogenesis; superior olivary nucleus
2.  Tonotopic Organization of the Superior Olivary Nucleus in the Chicken Auditory Brainstem 
The Journal of comparative neurology  2012;520(7):1493-1508.
Topographic maps are salient features of neuronal organization in sensory systems. Inhibitory components of neuronal circuitry are often embedded within this organization, making them difficult to isolate experimentally. The auditory system provides opportunities to study the topographic organization of inhibitory long-range projection nuclei, such as the superior olivary nucleus (SON). We analyzed the topographic organization of response features of neurons in the SON of chickens. Quantitative methods were developed to assess and communicate this organization. These analyses led to three main conclusions: 1) sound frequency is linearly arranged from dorsal (low frequencies) to ventral (high frequencies) in SON; 2) this tonotopic organization is less precise than the organization of the excitatory nuclei in the chicken auditory brainstem; and 3) neurons with different response patterns to pure tone stimuli are interspersed throughout the SON and show similar tonotopic organizations. This work provides a predictive model to determine the optimal stimulus frequency for a neuron from its spatial location in the SON.
PMCID: PMC4033909  PMID: 22102107
auditory; inhibitory; superior olivary nucleus; three-dimensional tonotopic organization
3.  Interaural timing difference circuits in the auditory brainstem of the emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae) 
In the auditory system, precise encoding of temporal information is critical for sound localization, a task with direct behavioral relevance. Interaural timing differences are computed using axonal delay lines and cellular coincidence detectors in nucleus laminaris (NL). We present morphological and physiological data on the timing circuits in the emu, Dromaius novaehollandiae, and compare these results with those from the barn owl (Tyto alba) and the domestic chick (Gallus gallus). Emu NL was composed of a compact monolayer of bitufted neurons whose two thick primary dendrites were oriented dorsoventrally. They showed a gradient in dendritic length along the presumed tonotopic axis. The NL and nucleus magnocellularis (NM) neurons were strongly immunoreactive for parvalbumin, a calcium-binding protein. Antibodies against synaptic vesicle protein 2 and glutamic acid decarboxlyase revealed that excitatory synapses terminated heavily on the dendritic tufts, while inhibitory terminals were distributed more uniformly. Physiological recordings from brainstem slices demonstrated contralateral delay lines from NM to NL. During whole-cell patch-clamp recordings, NM and NL neurons fired single spikes and were doubly-rectifying. NL and NM neurons had input resistances of 30.0 ± 19.9 MΩ and 49.0 ± 25.6 MΩ, respectively, and membrane time constants of 12.8 ± 3.8 ms and 3.9 ± 0.2 ms. These results provide further support for the Jeffress model for sound localization in birds. The emu timing circuits showed the ancestral (plesiomorphic) pattern in their anatomy and physiology, while differences in dendritic structure compared to chick and owl may indicate specialization for encoding ITDs at low best frequencies.
PMCID: PMC2948976  PMID: 16435285
avian; nucleus laminaris; nucleus magnocellularis; dendrite; coincidence detection; sound localization
4.  GABAergic inhibition sharpens the frequency tuning and enhances phase locking in chicken nucleus magnocellularis neurons 
The Journal of Neuroscience  2010;30(36):12075-12083.
GABAergic modulation of activity in avian cochlear nucleus neurons has been studied extensively in vitro. However, how this modulation actually influences processing in vivo is not known. We investigated responses of chicken nucleus magnocellularis (NM) neurons to sound while pharmacologically manipulating the inhibitory input from the superior olivary nucleus (SON). SON receives excitatory inputs from nucleus angularis (NA) and nucleus laminaris (NL), and provides GABAergic inputs to NM, NA, NL, and putatively to the contralateral SON. Results from single unit extracellular recordings from 2–4 wks posthatch chickens show that firing rates of auditory nerve fibers (ANFs) increased monotonically with sound intensity, while that of NM neurons saturated or even decreased at moderate or loud sound levels. Blocking GABAergic input with local application of TTX into the SON induced an increase in firing rate of ipsilateral NM while that of the contralateral NM decreased at high sound levels. Moreover, local application of bicuculline to NM also increased the firing rate of NM neurons at high sound levels, reduced phase-locking, and broadened the frequency tuning properties of NM neurons. Following application of DNQX, clear evidence of inhibition was observed. Furthermore, the inhibition was tuned to a broader frequency range than the excitatory response areas. We conclude that GABAergic inhibition from SON has at least three physiological influences on the activity of NM neurons: it regulates the firing activity of NM units in a sound-level dependent manner; it improves phase selectivity; and it sharpens frequency tuning of NM neuronal responses.
PMCID: PMC3376706  PMID: 20826670
Superior olivary nucleus; Cochlear nucleus; Bicuculline; GABA; Auditory; In vivo
5.  Neuronal specializations for the processing of interaural difference cues in the chick 
Sound information is encoded as a series of spikes of the auditory nerve fibers (ANFs), and then transmitted to the brainstem auditory nuclei. Features such as timing and level are extracted from ANFs activity and further processed as the interaural time difference (ITD) and the interaural level difference (ILD), respectively. These two interaural difference cues are used for sound source localization by behaving animals. Both cues depend on the head size of animals and are extremely small, requiring specialized neural properties in order to process these cues with precision. Moreover, the sound level and timing cues are not processed independently from one another. Neurons in the nucleus angularis (NA) are specialized for coding sound level information in birds and the ILD is processed in the posterior part of the dorsal lateral lemniscus nucleus (LLDp). Processing of ILD is affected by the phase difference of binaural sound. Temporal features of sound are encoded in the pathway starting in nucleus magnocellularis (NM), and ITD is processed in the nucleus laminaris (NL). In this pathway a variety of specializations are found in synapse morphology, neuronal excitability, distribution of ion channels and receptors along the tonotopic axis, which reduces spike timing fluctuation in the ANFs-NM synapse, and imparts precise and stable ITD processing to the NL. Moreover, the contrast of ITD processing in NL is enhanced over a wide range of sound level through the activity of GABAergic inhibitory systems from both the superior olivary nucleus (SON) and local inhibitory neurons that follow monosynaptic to NM activity.
PMCID: PMC4023016  PMID: 24847212
brainstem auditory nucleus; interaural difference cues; SON; tonic inhibition; phasic inhibition
6.  Mechanisms for Adjusting Interaural Time Differences to Achieve Binaural Coincidence Detection 
Understanding binaural perception requires detailed analyses of the neural circuitry responsible for the computation of interaural time differences (ITDs). In the avian brainstem, this circuit consists of internal axonal delay lines innervating an array of coincidence detector neurons that encode external ITDs. Nucleus magnocellularis (NM) neurons project to the dorsal dendritic field of the ipsilateral nucleus laminaris (NL) and to the ventral field of the contralateral NL. Contralateral-projecting axons form a delay line system along a band of NL neurons. Binaural acoustic signals in the form of phase-locked action potentials from NM cells arrive at NL and establish a topographic map of sound source location along the azimuth. These pathways are assumed to represent a circuit similar to the Jeffress model of sound localization, establishing a place code along an isofrequency contour of NL. Three-dimensional measurements of axon lengths reveal major discrepancies with the current model; the temporal offset based on conduction length alone makes encoding of physiological ITDs impossible. However, axon diameter and distances between Nodes of Ranvier also influence signal propagation times along an axon. Our measurements of these parameters reveal that diameter and internode distance can compensate for the temporal offset inferred from axon lengths alone. Together with other recent studies these unexpected results should inspire new thinking on the cellular biology, evolution and plasticity of the circuitry underlying low frequency sound localization in both birds and mammals.
PMCID: PMC2822993  PMID: 20053889
Sound; Localization; Auditory; Brainstem; Axon; Conduction; Velocity
7.  Vesicular Glutamate Transporter Expression in Supraoptic Neurones Suggests a Glutamatergic Phenotype 
Journal of Neuroendocrinology  2006;18(4):253-265.
Magnocellular neuroendocrine cells of the supraoptic nucleus (SON) release the peptides oxytocin (OT) and vasopressin (VP) from their dendrites and terminals. In addition to peptide-containing large dense-core vesicles, axon terminals from these cells contain clear microvesicles that have been shown to contain glutamate. Using multilabelling confocal microscopy, we investigated the presence of vesicular glutamate transporters (VGLUTs) in astrocytes as well as VP and OT neurones of the SON. Simultaneous probing of the SON with antibodies against VGLUT isoforms 1–3, OT, VP and glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) revealed the presence of VGLUT-2 in somata and dendrites of SON neurones. Immunoreactivity (-ir) for VGLUT-3 was also detected in both OT and VP neurones as well as in GFAP-ir astrocytes and other cells of the ventral glial lamina. Colocalisation of VGLUT-2 and VGLUT-3 in individual SON neurones was also examined and VGLUT-ir with both antibodies could be detected in both types of SON neurones. Although VGLUT-1-ir was strong lateral to the SON, only sparse labelling was apparent within the nucleus, and no colocalisation with either SON neurones or astrocytes was observed. The SON or the SON plus its surrounding perinuclear zone was probed using the reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction and the presence of mRNA for all three VGLUT isoforms was detected. These results suggest that similar arrangements of transmitters exist in SON neuronal dendrites and their neurohypophysial terminals and that magnocellular neuroendocrine somata and dendrites may be capable of glutamatergic transmission.
PMCID: PMC1413582  PMID: 16503920
VGLUT; hypothalamus; dendritic release; oxytocin; vasopressin; astrocytes; meninges
8.  Heterogeneous kinetics and pharmacology of synaptic inhibition in the chick auditory brainstem 
Identification of shared features between avian and mammalian auditory brainstem circuits has provided much insight into the mechanisms underlying early auditory processing. However, previous studies have highlighted an apparent difference in inhibitory systems; synaptic inhibition is thought to be slow and GABAergic in birds, but to have fast kinetics and be predominantly glycinergic in mammals. Using patch-clamp recordings in chick brainstem slices, we found this distinction is not exclusively true. Consistent with previous work, inhibitory postsynaptic currents (IPSCs) in nucleus magnocellularis (NM) were slow and mediated by GABAA receptors. However, IPSCs in nucleus laminaris (NL) and a subset of neurons in nucleus angularis (NA) had rapid time courses two to three-fold faster than those in NM. Further, we found IPSCs in NA were mediated by both glycine and GABAA receptors, demonstrating for the first time a role for fast glycinergic transmission in the avian auditory brainstem. Although NM, NL and NA have unique roles in auditory processing, the majority of inhibitory input to each nucleus arises from the same source, ipsilateral superior olivary nucleus (SON). Our results demonstrate remarkable diversity of inhibitory transmission among the avian brainstem nuclei and suggest differential glycine and GABAA receptor activity tailors inhibition to the specific functional roles of NM, NL, and NA despite common SON input. We additionally observed that glycinergic/GABAergic activity in NA was usually depolarizing and could elicit spiking activity in NA neurons. Because NA projects to SON, these excitatory effects may influence the recruitment of inhibitory activity in the brainstem nuclei.
PMCID: PMC2894706  PMID: 19641125
Auditory; GABA; Glycine; Patch Clamp; Inhibition; Synapse
9.  Differential Conduction Velocity Regulation in Ipsilateral and Contralateral Collaterals Innervating Brainstem Coincidence Detector Neurons 
The Journal of Neuroscience  2014;34(14):4914-4919.
Information processing in the brain relies on precise timing of signal propagation. The highly conserved neuronal network for computing spatial representations of acoustic signals resolves microsecond timing of sounds processed by the two ears. As such, it provides an excellent model for understanding how precise temporal regulation of neuronal signals is achieved and maintained. The well described avian and mammalian brainstem circuit for computation of interaural time differences is composed of monaural cells in the cochlear nucleus (CN; nucleus magnocellularis in birds) projecting to binaurally innervated coincidence detection neurons in the medial superior olivary nucleus (MSO) in mammals or nucleus laminaris (NL) in birds. Individual axons from CN neurons issue a single axon that bifurcates into an ipsilateral branch and a contralateral branch that innervate segregated dendritic regions of the MSO/NL coincidence detector neurons. We measured conduction velocities of the ipsilateral and contralateral branches of these bifurcating axon collaterals in the chicken by antidromic stimulation of two sites along each branch and whole-cell recordings in the parent neurons. At the end of each experiment, the individual CN neuron and its axon collaterals were filled with dye. We show that the two collaterals of a single axon adjust the conduction velocities individually to achieve the specific conduction velocities essential for precise temporal integration of information from the two ears, as required for sound localization. More generally, these results suggest that individual axonal segments in the CNS interact locally with surrounding neural structures to determine conduction velocity.
PMCID: PMC3972718  PMID: 24695710
conduction velocity regulation; myelin plasticity; sound localization
The Journal of comparative neurology  2011;519(14):2838-2851.
Competition between presynaptic inputs has been suggested to shape dendritic form. This hypothesis can be directly tested on bitufted, auditory neurons in chicken nucleus laminaris (NL). Each NL neuron contains two relatively symmetrical dendritic arbors; the dorsal dendrite receives excitatory glutamatergic input from the ipsilateral ear and the ventral dendrites receive corresponding input from the contralateral ear. To assess the effect of relative synaptic strength on NL dendrites, we used single cell electroporation, electrophysiology and live, two-photon laser scanning microscopy to manipulate both the amount and the balance of synaptic input to the two matching sets of dendrites. With simultaneous activation, both sets of dendrites changed together, either growing or retracting over the imaging period. In contrast, stimulation of only one set of dendrites (either dorsal or ventral) resulted in the unstimulated dendrites losing total dendritic branch length, while the stimulated dendrites exhibited a tendency to grow. In this system, balanced input leads to balanced changes in the two sets of dendrites while imbalanced input results in differential changes. Time-lapse imaging revealed that NL dendrites respond to differential stimulation by first decreasing the size of their unstimulated dendrites, and then increasing the size of their stimulated dendrites. This result suggests that the relative activity of presynaptic neurons dynamically controls dendritic structure in NL, and that dendritic real estate can rapidly be shifted from inactive inputs to active inputs.
PMCID: PMC3196591  PMID: 21500196
dendrites; activity; competition; auditory; time-lapse imaging
11.  In vivo Reversible Regulation of Dendritic Patterning by Afferent Input in Bipolar Auditory Neurons 
Afferent input regulates neuronal dendritic patterning locally and globally through distinct mechanisms. To begin to understand these mechanisms, we differentially manipulate afferent input in vivo and assess effects on dendritic patterning of individual neurons in chicken nucleus laminaris (NL). Dendrites of NL neurons segregate into dorsal and ventral domains, receiving excitatory input from the ipsilateral and contralateral ears, respectively, via nucleus magnocellularis (NM). Blocking action potentials from one ear, by either cochlea removal or temporary treatment with tetrodotoxin (TTX), leads to rapid and significant retraction of affected NL dendrites (dorsal ipsilaterally and ventral contralaterally) within 8h as compared to the other dendrites of the same neurons. The degree of retraction is comparable to that induced by direct deafferentation resulting from transection of NM axons. Importantly, when inner ear activity is allowed to recover from TTX treatments, retracted NL dendrites regrow to their normal length within 48h. The retraction and growth involve elimination of terminal branches and addition of new branches. Examination of changes in NL dendrites at 96h following unilateral cochlear removal, a manipulation that induces cell loss in NM and persistent blockage of afferent excitatory action potentials, reveals a significant correlation between cell death in the ipsilateral NM and the degree of dendritic retraction in NL. These results demonstrate that presynaptic action potentials rapidly and reversibly regulate dendritic patterning of postsynaptic neurons in a compartment specific manner, while long-term dendritic maintenance may be regulated in a way that is correlated with the presence of silent presynaptic appositions.
PMCID: PMC3435435  PMID: 22895732
12.  Plasticity of Auditory Medullary-Midbrain Connectivity across Metamorphic Development in the Bullfrog, Rana catesbeiana 
Brain, Behavior and Evolution  2006;69(1):1-19.
On the basis of patterns of anterograde, retrograde, and bi-directional transport of tracers from both the superior olivary nucleus (SON) and the torus semicircularis (TS), we report anatomical changes in brainstem connectivity across metamorphic development in the bullfrog, Rana catesbeiana. In early and late stages of larval development (Gosner stages 25–37), anterograde or bi-directional tracers injected into the SON produce terminal/fiber label in the contralateral SON and in the ipsilateral TS. Between stages 38–41 (deaf period), only sparse or no terminal/fiber label is visible in these target nuclei. During metamorphic climax (stages 42–46), terminal/fiber label reappears in both the contralateral SON and in the ipsilateral TS, and now also in the contralateral TS. Injections of retrograde tracers into the SON fail to label cell bodies in the ipsilateral TS in deaf period animals, mirroring the previously-reported failure of retrograde transport from the TS to the ipsilateral SON during this developmental time. Bilateral cell body label emerges in the dorsal medullary nucleus and the lateral vestibular nucleus bilaterally as a result of SON transport during the late larval period, while cell body label in the contralateral TS emerges during climax. At all larval stages, injections into the SON produce anterograde and retrograde label in the medial vestibular nucleus bilaterally. These data show anatomical stability in some pathways and plasticity in others during larval development, with the most dramatic changes occurring during the deaf period and metamorphic climax. Animals in metamorphic climax show patterns of connectivity similar to that of froglets and adults, indicating the maturation during climax of central anatomical substrates for hearing in air.
PMCID: PMC3257804  PMID: 16912473
Tadpoles; Anurans; Vestibular nucleus complex; Dorsal medullary nucleus; Superior olivary complex; Torus semicircularis; Lipophilic dyes; PHA-L; Cholera toxin; Metamorphosis
13.  Asymmetric Excitatory Synaptic Dynamics Underlie Interaural Time Difference Processing in the Auditory System 
PLoS Biology  2010;8(6):e1000406.
In order to localize sounds in the environment, the auditory system detects and encodes differences in signals between each ear. The exquisite sensitivity of auditory brain stem neurons to the differences in rise time of the excitation signals from the two ears allows for neuronal encoding of microsecond interaural time differences.
Low-frequency sound localization depends on the neural computation of interaural time differences (ITD) and relies on neurons in the auditory brain stem that integrate synaptic inputs delivered by the ipsi- and contralateral auditory pathways that start at the two ears. The first auditory neurons that respond selectively to ITD are found in the medial superior olivary nucleus (MSO). We identified a new mechanism for ITD coding using a brain slice preparation that preserves the binaural inputs to the MSO. There was an internal latency difference for the two excitatory pathways that would, if left uncompensated, position the ITD response function too far outside the physiological range to be useful for estimating ITD. We demonstrate, and support using a biophysically based computational model, that a bilateral asymmetry in excitatory post-synaptic potential (EPSP) slopes provides a robust compensatory delay mechanism due to differential activation of low threshold potassium conductance on these inputs and permits MSO neurons to encode physiological ITDs. We suggest, more generally, that the dependence of spike probability on rate of depolarization, as in these auditory neurons, provides a mechanism for temporal order discrimination between EPSPs.
Author Summary
Animals can locate the source of a sound by detecting microsecond differences in the arrival time of sound at the two ears. Neurons encoding these interaural time differences (ITDs) receive an excitatory synaptic input from each ear. They can perform a microsecond computation with excitatory synapses that have millisecond time scale because they are extremely sensitive to the input's “rise time,” the time taken to reach the peak of the synaptic input. Current theories assume that the biophysical properties of the two inputs are identical. We challenge this assumption by showing that the rise times of excitatory synaptic potentials driven by the ipsilateral ear are faster than those driven by the contralateral ear. Further, we present a computational model demonstrating that this disparity in rise times, together with the neurons' sensitivity to excitation's rise time, can endow ITD-encoding with microsecond resolution in the biologically relevant range. Our analysis also resolves a timing mismatch. The difference between contralateral and ipsilateral latencies is substantially larger than the relevant ITD range. We show how the rise time disparity compensates for this mismatch. Generalizing, we suggest that phasic-firing neurons—those that respond to rapidly, but not to slowly, changing stimuli—are selective to the temporal ordering of brief inputs. In a coincidence-detection computation the neuron will respond more robustly when a faster input leads a slower one, even if the inputs are brief and have similar amplitudes.
PMCID: PMC2893945  PMID: 20613857
14.  Compartment-Specific Regulation of Plasma Membrane Calcium ATPase Type 2 in the Chick Auditory Brainstem 
Calcium signaling plays a role in synaptic regulation of dendritic structure, usually on the time scale of hours or days. Here we use immunocytochemistry to examine changes in expression of the plasma membrane calcium ATPase type 2 (PMCA2), a high-affinity calcium efflux protein, in the chick nucleus laminaris (NL) following manipulations of synaptic inputs. Dendrites of NL neurons segregate into dorsal and ventral domains, receiving excitatory input from the ipsilateral and contralateral ears, respectively, via nucleus magnocellularis (NM). Deprivation of the contralateral projection from NM to NL leads to rapid retraction of ventral, but not the dorsal, dendrites of NL neurons. Immunocytochemistry revealed symmetric distribution of PMCA2 in two neuropil regions of normally innervated NL. Electron microscopy confirmed that PMCA2 localizes in both NM terminals and NL dendrites. As early as 30 minutes following transection of the contralateral projection from NM to NL or unilateral cochlea removal, significant decreases in PMCA2 immunoreactivity were seen in the deprived neuropil of NL compared to the other neuropil which continued to receive normal input. The rapid decrease correlated with reductions in the immunoreactivity for the microtubule-associated protein 2, which affects cytoskeleton stabilization. These results suggest that PMCA2 is regulated independently in ventral and dorsal NL dendrites and/or their inputs from NM in a way that is correlated with presynaptic activity. This provides a potential mechanism by which deprivation can change calcium transport that, in turn, may be important for rapid, compartment-specific dendritic remodeling.
PMCID: PMC2702515  PMID: 19365819
calcium homeostasis; afferent regulation; dendritic remodeling; activity-dependency; nucleus laminaris
15.  Early segregation of layered projections from the lateral superior olivary nucleusto the central nucleus of the inferior colliculus in the neonatal cat 
Brain research  2007;1173:66-77.
The central nucleus of the inferior colliculus (IC) is a laminated structure that receives multiple converging afferent projections. These projections terminate in a layered arrangement and are aligned with dendritic arbors of the predominant disc-shaped neurons, forming fibrodendritic laminae. Within this structural framework, inputs terminate in a precise manner, establishing a mosaic of partially overlapping domains that likely define functional compartments. Although several of these patterned inputs have been described in the adult, relatively little is known about their organization prior to hearing onset. The present study used the lipophilic carbocyanine dyes DiI and DiD to examine the ipsilateral and contralateral projections from the lateral superior olivary (LSO) nucleus to the IC in a developmental series of paraformaldehyde-fixed kitten tissue. By birth, the crossed and uncrossed projections had reached the IC and were distributed across the frequency axis of the central nucleus. At this earliest postnatal stage, projections already exhibited a characteristic banded arrangement similar to that described in the adult. The heaviest terminal fields of the two inputs were always complementary in nature, with the ipsilateral input appearing slightly denser. This early arrangement of interdigitating ipsilateral and contralateral LSO axonal bands that occupy adjacent sublayers supports the idea that the initial establishment of this highly organized mosaic of inputs that defines distinct synaptic domains within the IC occurs largely in the absence of auditory experience. Potential developmental mechanisms that may shape these highly ordered inputs prior to hearing onset are discussed.
PMCID: PMC2075569  PMID: 17850770
auditory midbrain; lateral superior olive; inferior colliculus; development; fibrodendritic laminae; DiI
16.  Regulation of glutamatergic and GABAergic neurotransmission in the chick nucleus laminaris: role of N-type calcium channels 
Neuroscience  2009;164(3):1009-1019.
Neurons in the chicken nucleus laminaris (NL), the third-order auditory nucleus involved in azimuth sound localization, receive bilaterally segregated (ipsilateral vs. contralateral) glutamatergic excitation from the cochlear nucleus magnocellularis and GABAergic inhibition from the ipsilateral superior olivary nucleus. Here, I investigate the voltage-gated calcium channels (VGCCs) that trigger the excitatory and the inhibitory transmission in the NL. Whole-cell recordings were performed in acute brainstem slices. The excitatory transmission was predominantly mediated by N-type VGCCs, as the specific N-type blocker ω-Conotoxin-GVIA (1-2.5 μM) inhibited excitatory postsynaptic currents (EPSCs) by ∼90%. Blockers for P/Q- and L-type VGCCs produced no inhibition, and blockade of R-type VGCCs produced a small inhibition. In individual cells, the effect of each VGCC blocker on the EPSC elicited by activation of the ipsilateral input was the same as that on the EPSC elicited by activation of the contralateral input, and the two EPSCs had similar kinetics, suggesting physiological symmetry between the two glutamatergic inputs to single NL neurons. The inhibitory transmission in NL neurons was almost exclusively mediated by N-type VGCCs, as ω-Conotoxin-GVIA (1 μM) produced a ∼90% reduction of inhibitory postsynaptic currents, whereas blockers for other VGCCs produced no inhibition. In conclusion, N-type VGCCs play a dominant role in triggering both the excitatory and the inhibitory transmission in the NL, and the presynaptic VGCCs that mediate the two bilaterally segregated glutamatergic inputs to individual NL neurons are identical. These features may play a role in optimizing coincidence detection in NL neurons.
PMCID: PMC2784256  PMID: 19751802
voltage-gated calcium channel; excitatory postsynaptic current; inhibitory postsynaptic current; coincidence detection; sound localization
17.  Resolution of interaural time differences in the avian sound localization circuit—a modeling study 
Interaural time differences (ITDs) are a main cue for sound localization and sound segregation. A dominant model to study ITD detection is the sound localization circuitry in the avian auditory brainstem. Neurons in nucleus laminaris (NL) receive auditory information from both ears via the avian cochlear nucleus magnocellularis (NM) and compare the relative timing of these inputs. Timing of these inputs is crucial, as ITDs in the microsecond range must be discriminated and encoded. We modeled ITD sensitivity of single NL neurons based on previously published data and determined the minimum resolvable ITD for neurons in NL. The minimum resolvable ITD is too large to allow for discrimination by single NL neurons of naturally occurring ITDs for very low frequencies. For high frequency NL neurons (>1 kHz) our calculated ITD resolutions fall well within the natural range of ITDs and approach values of below 10 μs. We show that different parts of the ITD tuning function offer different resolution in ITD coding, suggesting that information derived from both parts may be used for downstream processing. A place code may be used for sound location at frequencies above 500 Hz, but our data suggest the slope of the ITD tuning curve ought to be used for ITD discrimination by single NL neurons at the lowest frequencies. Our results provide an important measure of the necessary temporal window of binaural inputs for future studies on the mechanisms and development of neuronal computation of temporally precise information in this important system. In particular, our data establish the temporal precision needed for conduction time regulation along NM axons.
PMCID: PMC4143899  PMID: 25206329
sound localization; interaural time differences; avian brainstem; nucleus laminaris; ITD resolution
18.  Detection of Interaural Time Differences in the Alligator 
The auditory systems of birds and mammals use timing information from each ear to detect interaural time difference (ITD). To determine whether the Jeffress-type algorithms that underlie sensitivity to ITD in birds are an evolutionarily stable strategy, we recorded from the auditory nuclei of crocodilians, who are the sister group to the birds. In alligators, precisely timed spikes in the first-order nucleus magnocellularis (NM) encode the timing of sounds, and NM neurons project to neurons in the nucleus laminaris (NL) that detect interaural time differences. In vivo recordings from NL neurons show that the arrival time of phase-locked spikes differs between the ipsilateral and contralateral inputs. When this disparity is nullified by their best ITD, the neurons respond maximally. Thus NL neurons act as coincidence detectors. A biologically detailed model of NL with alligator parameters discriminated ITDs up to 1 kHz. The range of best ITDs represented in NL was much larger than in birds, however, and extended from 0 to 1000 μs contralateral, with a median ITD of 450 μs. Thus, crocodilians and birds employ similar algorithms for ITD detection, although crocodilians have larger heads.
PMCID: PMC3170862  PMID: 19553438
19.  CNTF Receptor Alpha is Expressed by Magnocellular Neurons and Expression is Upregulated in the Rat Supraoptic Nucleus During Axonal Sprouting 
Experimental neurology  2008;215(1):135-141.
Ciliary neurotrophic factor (CNTF) is expressed by glial cells at multiple levels of the magnocellular neurosecretory system (MNS). CNTF is present in astrocytes in the hypothalamic supraoptic nucleus (SON) as well as in perivascular cells in the neurohypophysis, and a several fold increase in CNTF immunoreactivity occurs in the SON following either axotomy of magnocellular neurons or during axonal sprouting by intact magnocellular neurons. CNTF also promotes survival and stimulates process outgrowth from magnocellular neurons in vitro. While these findings suggest that CNTF may act as a growth factor in support of neuronal plasticity in the MNS, little is known regarding possible expression of receptors for CNTF in the MNS. We have therefore used immunocytochemistry and in situ hybridization to examine the expression of CNTF receptor alpha (CNTFRα) in the rat MNS. Robust immunoreactivity for CNTFRα was observed associated with oxytocinergic and vasopressinergic neurons distributed throughout the SON. Astrocytes located within the ventral glial lamina (VGL) of the SON were also immunoreactive for CNTFRα. Robust hybridization of an anti-sense [35S]-cRNA probe to CNTFRα mRNA was observed throughout the SON, while binding of a control sense probe was much lower. Grains were found clustered predominantly over neuronal somata, indicative of expression by magnocellular neurons within the SON. We next examined changes in expression of CNTFRα mRNA by magnocellular neurons 7 days following unilateral transection of the hypothalamo-neurohypophysial tract. The level of CNTFRα mRNA was increased 32% (compared to age-matched intact controls; p<.05) in magnocellular neurons in the SON contralateral to the lesion, which are undergoing extensive collateral axonal sprouting, but was unchanged in axotomized magnocellular neurons in the SON ipsilateral to the lesion. These findings suggest that CNTF produced by MNS glia and acting via CNTFRα may exert neurotrophic effects on magnocellular neurons.
PMCID: PMC2653057  PMID: 18973757
20.  Biophysical basis of the sound analog membrane potential that underlies coincidence detection in the barn owl 
Interaural time difference (ITD), or the difference in timing of a sound wave arriving at the two ears, is a fundamental cue for sound localization. A wide variety of animals have specialized neural circuits dedicated to the computation of ITDs. In the avian auditory brainstem, ITDs are encoded as the spike rates in the coincidence detector neurons of the nucleus laminaris (NL). NL neurons compare the binaural phase-locked inputs from the axons of ipsi- and contralateral nucleus magnocellularis (NM) neurons. Intracellular recordings from the barn owl's NL in vivo showed that tonal stimuli induce oscillations in the membrane potential. Since this oscillatory potential resembled the stimulus sound waveform, it was named the sound analog potential (Funabiki et al., 2011). Previous modeling studies suggested that a convergence of phase-locked spikes from NM leads to an oscillatory membrane potential in NL, but how presynaptic, synaptic, and postsynaptic factors affect the formation of the sound analog potential remains to be investigated. In the accompanying paper, we derive analytical relations between these parameters and the signal and noise components of the oscillation. In this paper, we focus on the effects of the number of presynaptic NM fibers, the mean firing rate of these fibers, their average degree of phase-locking, and the synaptic time scale. Theoretical analyses and numerical simulations show that, provided the total synaptic input is kept constant, changes in the number and spike rate of NM fibers alter the ITD-independent noise whereas the degree of phase-locking is linearly converted to the ITD-dependent signal component of the sound analog potential. The synaptic time constant affects the signal more prominently than the noise, making faster synaptic input more suitable for effective ITD computation.
PMCID: PMC3821004  PMID: 24265615
phase-locking; sound localization; auditory brainstem; periodic signals; oscillation; owl
21.  Astrocyte-Secreted Factors Modulate a Gradient of Primary Dendritic Arbors in Nucleus Laminaris of the Avian Auditory Brainstem 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(11):e27383.
Neurons in nucleus laminaris (NL) receive binaural, tonotopically matched input from nucleus magnocelluaris (NM) onto bitufted dendrites that display a gradient of dendritic arbor size. These features improve computation of interaural time differences, which are used to determine the locations of sound sources. The dendritic gradient emerges following a period of significant reorganization at embryonic day 15 (E15), which coincides with the emergence of astrocytes that express glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) in the auditory brainstem. The major changes include a loss of total dendritic length, a systematic loss of primary dendrites along the tonotopic axis, and lengthening of primary dendrites on caudolateral NL neurons. Here we have tested whether astrocyte-derived molecules contribute to these changes in dendritic morphology. We used an organotypic brainstem slice preparation to perform repeated imaging of individual dye-filled NL neurons to determine the effects of astrocyte-conditioned medium (ACM) on dendritic morphology. We found that treatment with ACM induced a decrease in the number of primary dendrites in a tonotopically graded manner similar to that observed during normal development. Our data introduce a new interaction between astrocytes and neurons in the auditory brainstem and suggest that these astrocytes influence multiple aspects of auditory brainstem maturation.
PMCID: PMC3210166  PMID: 22087304
22.  Commissural Axons of the Mouse Cochlear Nucleus 
The Journal of comparative neurology  2013;521(7):1683-1696.
The axons of commissural neurons that project from one cochlear nucleus to the other were studied after labeling with anterograde tracer. Injections were made into the dorsal subdivision of the cochlear nucleus in order to restrict labeling only to the group of commissural neurons that gave off collaterals to, or were located in, this subdivision. The number of labeled commissural axons in each injection was correlated with the number of labeled radiate multipolar neurons, suggesting radiate neurons as the predominant origin of the axons. The radiate commissural axons are thick and myelinated, and they exit the dorsal acoustic stria of the injected cochlear nucleus to cross the brainstem in the dorsal half, near the crossing position of the olivocochlear bundle. They enter the opposite cochlear nucleus via the dorsal and ventral acoustic stria and at its medial border. Reconstructions of single axons demonstrate that terminations are mostly in the core and typically within a single subdivision of the cochlear nucleus. Extents of termination range from narrow to broad along both the dorso-ventral (i.e. tonotopic) and rostro-caudal dimensions. In the electron microscope, labeled swellings form synapses that are symmetric (in that there is little postsynaptic density), a characteristic of inhibitory synapses. Our labeled axons do not appear to include excitatory commissural axons that end in edge regions of the nucleus. Radiate commissural axons could mediate the broad-band inhibition observed in responses to contralateral sound, and they may balance input from the two ears on a quick time course.
PMCID: PMC3573222  PMID: 23124982
auditory brainstem; inhibitory synapse; glycine; electron microscopy; binaural balance; multipolar cell
23.  Glycinergic transmission modulates GABAergic inhibition in the avian auditory pathway 
For all neurons, a proper balance of synaptic excitation and inhibition is crucial to effect computational precision. Achievement of this balance is remarkable when one considers factors that modulate synaptic strength operate on multiple overlapping time scales and affect both pre- and postsynaptic elements. Recent studies have shown that inhibitory transmitters, glycine and GABA, are co-released in auditory nuclei involved in the computation of interaural time disparities (ITDs), a cue used to process sound source location. The co-release expressed at these synapses is heavily activity dependent, and generally occurs when input rates are high. This circuitry, in both birds and mammals, relies on inhibitory input to maintain the temporal precision necessary for ITD encoding. Studies of co-release in other brain regions suggest that GABA and glycine receptors (GlyRs) interact via cross-suppressive modulation of receptor conductance. We performed in vitro whole-cell recordings in several nuclei of the chicken brainstem auditory circuit to assess whether this cross-suppressive phenomenon was evident in the avian brainstem. We evaluated the effect of pressure-puff applied glycine on synaptically evoked inhibitory currents in nucleus magnocellularis (NM) and the superior olivary nucleus (SON). Glycine pre-application reduced the amplitude of inhibitory postsynaptic currents (IPSCs) evoked during a 100 Hz train stimulus in both nuclei. This apparent glycinergic modulation was blocked in the presence of strychnine. Further experiments showed that this modulation did not depend on postsynaptic biochemical interactions such as phosphatase activity, or direct interactions between GABA and GlyR proteins. Rather, voltage clamp experiments in which we manipulated Cl− flux during agonist application suggest that activation of one receptor will modulate the conductance of the other via local changes in Cl− ion concentration within microdomains of the postsynaptic membrane.
PMCID: PMC3954080  PMID: 24672432
glycine; GABA; inhibition; cross-suppression; interaural time disparities
24.  Projections of Somatosensory Cortex and Frontal Eye Fields onto Incertotectal Neurons in the Cat 
The goal of this study was to determine whether the input-output characteristics of the zona incerta (ZI) are appropriate for it to serve as a conduit for cortical control over saccade-related activity in the superior colliculus. The study utilized the neuronal tracers wheat germ agglutinin-horseradish peroxidase (WGA-HRP) and biotinylated dextran amine (BDA) in the cat. Injections of WGA-HRP into primary somatosensory cortex (SI) revealed sparse, widespread nontopographic projections throughout ZI. In addition, region-specific areas of more intense termination were present in ventral ZI, although strict topography was not observed. In comparison, the frontal eye fields (FEF) also projected sparsely throughout ZI, but terminated more heavily, medially, along the border between the two sublaminae. Furthermore, retrogradely labeled incertocortical neurons were observed in both experiments. The relationship of these two cortical projections to incertotectal cells was also directly examined by retrogradely labeling incertotectal cells with WGA-HRP in animals that had also received cortical BDA injections. Labeled axonal arbors from both SI and FEF had thin, sparsely branched axons with numerous en passant boutons. They formed numerous close associations with the somata and dendrites of WGA-HRP-labeled incertotectal cells. In summary, these results indicate that both sensory and motor cortical inputs to ZI display similar morphologies and distributions. In addition, both display close associations with incertotectal cells, suggesting direct synaptic contact. From these data, we conclude that inputs from somatosensory and FEF cortex both play a role in controlling gaze-related activity in the superior colliculus by way of the inhibitory incertotectal projection.
PMCID: PMC4281943  PMID: 17083121
zona incerta; oculomotor; superior colliculus; thalamus
25.  Expression of Exocytosis Proteins in Rat Supraoptic Nucleus Neurones 
Journal of neuroendocrinology  2012;24(4):629-641.
In magnocellular neurones of the supraoptic nucleus (SON), the neuropeptides vasopressin and oxytocin are synthesised and packaged into large dense-cored vesicles (LDCVs). These vesicles undergo regulated exocytosis from nerve terminals in the posterior pituitary gland and from somata/dendrites in the SON. Regulated exocytosis of LDCVs is considered to involve the soluble N-ethylmaleimide sensitive fusion protein attachment protein receptor (SNARE) complex [comprising vesicle associated membrane protein 2 (VAMP-2), syntaxin-1 and soluble N-ethylmaleimide attachment protein-25 (SNAP-25)] and regulatory proteins [such as synaptotagmin-1, munc-18 and Ca2+-dependent activator protein for secretion (CAPS-1)]. Using fluorescent immunocytochemistry and confocal microscopy, in both oxytocin and vasopressin neurones, we observed VAMP-2, SNAP-25 and syntaxin-1-immunoreactivity in axon terminals. The somata and dendrites contained syntaxin-1 and other regulatory exocytosis proteins, including munc-18 and CAPS-1. However, the distribution of VAMP-2 and synaptotagmin-1 in the SON was limited to putative pre-synaptic contacts because they co-localised with synaptophysin (synaptic vesicle marker) and had no co-localisation with either oxytocin or vasopressin. SNAP-25 immunoreactivity in the SON was limited to glial cell processes and was not detected in oxytocin or vasopressin somata/dendrites. The present results indicate differences in the expression and localisation of exocytosis proteins between the axon terminals and somata/dendritic compartment. The absence of VAMP-2 and SNAP-25 immunoreactivity from the somata/dendrites suggests that there might be different SNARE protein isoforms expressed in these compartments. Alternatively, exocytosis of LDCVs from somata/dendrites may use a different mechanism from that described by the SNARE complex theory.
PMCID: PMC3569506  PMID: 21988098 CAMSID: cams2627
hypothalamus; dendritic release; neuropeptides; SNARE

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