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1.  Classification of frequency response areas in the inferior colliculus reveals continua not discrete classes 
The Journal of Physiology  2013;591(Pt 16):4003-4025.
A differential response to sound frequency is a fundamental property of auditory neurons. Frequency analysis in the cochlea gives rise to V-shaped tuning functions in auditory nerve fibres, but by the level of the inferior colliculus (IC), the midbrain nucleus of the auditory pathway, neuronal receptive fields display diverse shapes that reflect the interplay of excitation and inhibition. The origin and nature of these frequency receptive field types is still open to question. One proposed hypothesis is that the frequency response class of any given neuron in the IC is predominantly inherited from one of three major afferent pathways projecting to the IC, giving rise to three distinct receptive field classes. Here, we applied subjective classification, principal component analysis, cluster analysis, and other objective statistical measures, to a large population (2826) of frequency response areas from single neurons recorded in the IC of the anaesthetised guinea pig. Subjectively, we recognised seven frequency response classes (V-shaped, non-monotonic Vs, narrow, closed, tilt down, tilt up and double-peaked), that were represented at all frequencies. We could identify similar classes using our objective classification tools. Importantly, however, many neurons exhibited properties intermediate between these classes, and none of the objective methods used here showed evidence of discrete response classes. Thus receptive field shapes in the IC form continua rather than discrete classes, a finding consistent with the integration of afferent inputs in the generation of frequency response areas. The frequency disposition of inhibition in the response areas of some neurons suggests that across-frequency inputs originating at or below the level of the IC are involved in their generation.
doi:10.1113/jphysiol.2013.255943
PMCID: PMC3764642  PMID: 23753527
2.  Olivocochlear Efferent Control in Sound Localization and Experience-Dependent Learning 
The Journal of Neuroscience  2011;31(7):2493-2501.
Efferent auditory pathways have been implicated in sound localization and its plasticity. We examined the role of the olivocochlear system (OC) in horizontal sound localization by the ferret and in localization learning following unilateral earplugging. Under anesthesia, adult ferrets underwent olivocochlear bundle section at the floor of the fourth ventricle, either at the midline or laterally (left). Lesioned and control animals were trained to localize 1 s and 40ms amplitude-roved broadband noise stimuli from one of 12 loudspeakers. Neither type of lesion affected normal localization accuracy. All ferrets then received a left earplug and were tested and trained over 10 d. The plug profoundly disrupted localization. Ferrets in the control and lateral lesion groups improved significantly during subsequent training on the 1 s stimulus. No improvement (learning) occurred in the midline lesion group. Markedly poorer performance and failure to learn was observed with the 40 ms stimulus in all groups. Plug removal resulted in a rapid resumption of normal localization in all animals. Insertion of a subsequent plug in the right ear produced similar results to left earplugging. Learning in the lateral lesion group was independent of the side of the lesion relative to the earplug. Lesions in all reported cases were verified histologically. The results suggest the OC system is not needed for accurate localization, but that it is involved in relearning localization during unilateral conductive hearing loss.
doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2679-10.2011
PMCID: PMC3292219  PMID: 21325517
3.  Forward Masking Estimated by Signal Detection Theory Analysis of Neuronal Responses in Primary Auditory Cortex 
Psychophysical forward masking is an increase in threshold of detection of a sound (probe) when it is preceded by another sound (masker). This is reminiscent of the reduction in neuronal responses to a sound following prior stimulation. Studies in the auditory nerve and cochlear nucleus using signal detection theory techniques to derive neuronal thresholds showed that in centrally projecting neurons, increases in masked thresholds were significantly smaller than the changes measured psychophysically. Larger threshold shifts have been reported in the inferior colliculus of awake marmoset. The present study investigated the magnitude of forward masking in primary auditory cortical neurons of anaesthetised guinea-pigs. Responses of cortical neurons to unmasked and forward masked tones were measured and probe detection thresholds estimated using signal detection theory methods. Threshold shifts were larger than in the auditory nerve, cochlear nucleus and inferior colliculus. The larger threshold shifts suggest that central, and probably cortical, processes contribute to forward masking. However, although methodological differences make comparisons difficult, the threshold shifts in cortical neurons were, in contrast to subcortical nuclei, actually larger than those observed psychophysically. Masking was largely attributable to a reduction in the responses to the probe, rather than either a persistence of the masker responses or an increase in the variability of probe responses.
doi:10.1007/s10162-010-0215-6
PMCID: PMC2914239  PMID: 20369270
forward masking; primary auditory cortex; guinea pig; signal detection theory
4.  Forward Masking Estimated by Signal Detection Theory Analysis of Neuronal Responses in Primary Auditory Cortex 
Psychophysical forward masking is an increase in threshold of detection of a sound (probe) when it is preceded by another sound (masker). This is reminiscent of the reduction in neuronal responses to a sound following prior stimulation. Studies in the auditory nerve and cochlear nucleus using signal detection theory techniques to derive neuronal thresholds showed that in centrally projecting neurons, increases in masked thresholds were significantly smaller than the changes measured psychophysically. Larger threshold shifts have been reported in the inferior colliculus of awake marmoset. The present study investigated the magnitude of forward masking in primary auditory cortical neurons of anaesthetised guinea-pigs. Responses of cortical neurons to unmasked and forward masked tones were measured and probe detection thresholds estimated using signal detection theory methods. Threshold shifts were larger than in the auditory nerve, cochlear nucleus and inferior colliculus. The larger threshold shifts suggest that central, and probably cortical, processes contribute to forward masking. However, although methodological differences make comparisons difficult, the threshold shifts in cortical neurons were, in contrast to subcortical nuclei, actually larger than those observed psychophysically. Masking was largely attributable to a reduction in the responses to the probe, rather than either a persistence of the masker responses or an increase in the variability of probe responses.
doi:10.1007/s10162-010-0215-6
PMCID: PMC2914239  PMID: 20369270
forward masking; primary auditory cortex; guinea pig; signal detection theory
5.  Retuning of Inferior Colliculus Neurons Following Spiral Ganglion Lesions: A Single-Neuron Model of Converging Inputs 
Lesions of spiral ganglion cells, representing a restricted sector of the auditory nerve array, produce immediate changes in the frequency tuning of inferior colliculus (IC) neurons. There is a loss of excitation at the lesion frequencies, yet responses to adjacent frequencies remain intact and new regions of activity appear. This leads to immediate changes in tuning and in tonotopic progression. Similar effects are seen after different methods of peripheral damage and in auditory neurons in other nuclei. The mechanisms that underlie these postlesion changes are unknown, but the acute effects seen in IC strongly suggest the “unmasking” of latent inputs by the removal of inhibition. In this study, we explore computational models of single neurons with a convergence of excitatory and inhibitory inputs from a range of characteristic frequencies (CFs), which can simulate the narrow prelesion tuning of IC neurons, and account for the changes in CF tuning after a lesion. The models can reproduce the data if inputs are aligned relative to one another in a precise order along the dendrites of model IC neurons. Frequency tuning in these neurons approximates that seen physiologically. Removal of inputs representing a narrow range of frequencies leads to unmasking of previously subthreshold excitatory inputs, which causes changes in CF. Conversely, if all of the inputs converge at the same point on the cell body, receptive fields are broad and unmasking rarely results in CF changes. However, if the inhibition is tonic with no stimulus-driven component, then unmasking can still produce changes in CF.
doi:10.1007/s10162-008-0139-6
PMCID: PMC2644396  PMID: 18958527
inferior colliculus; cochlear lesion; modeling; neuron
6.  The role of auditory nerve innervation and dendritic filtering in shaping onset responses in the ventral cochlear nucleus 
Brain Research  2009;1247(C):221-234.
Neurons in the ventral cochlear nucleus (VCN) that respond primarily at the onset of a pure tone stimulus show diversity in terms of peri-stimulus-time-histograms (PSTHs), rate-level functions, frequency tuning, and also their responses to broad band noise. A number of different mechanisms have been proposed as contributing to the onset characteristic: e.g. coincidence, depolarisation block, and low-threshold potassium currents. We show that a simple point neuron receiving convergent inputs from high-spontaneous rate auditory nerve (AN) fibers, with no special currents and no peri-stimulatory shifts in firing threshold, is sufficient to produce much of the diversity seen experimentally. Three sub-classes of onset PSTHs: onset-ideal (OI), onset-chopper (OC) and onset-locker (OL) are reproduced by variations in innervation patterns and dendritic filtering. The factors shaping responses were explored by systematically varying key parameters. An OI response in this model requires a narrow range of AN input best frequencies (BF) which only produce supra-threshold depolarizations during the stimulus onset. For OC and OL responses, receptive fields were wider. Considerable low pass filtering of AN inputs away from BF results in an OL, whilst relatively unfiltered inputs produce an OC response. Rate-level functions in response to pure tones can be sloping, or plateau. These can be also reproduced in the model by the manipulation of the AN innervation. The model supports the coincidence detection hypothesis, and suggests that differences in excitatory innervation and dendritic filtering constant are important factors to consider when accounting for the variation in response characteristics seen in VCN onset units.
doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2008.09.054
PMCID: PMC2653631  PMID: 18848923
Onset; Stellate; Cochlear nucleus; Point-neuron; PSTH; Rate-level functions
7.  Forward suppression in the auditory cortex is frequency-specific 
The European Journal of Neuroscience  2011;33(7):1240-1251.
We investigated how physiologically observed forward suppression interacts with stimulus frequency in neuronal responses in the guinea pig auditory cortex. The temporal order and frequency proximity of sounds influence both their perception and neuronal responses. Psychophysically, preceding sounds (conditioners) can make successive sounds (probes) harder to hear. These effects are larger when the two sounds are spectrally similar. Physiological forward suppression is usually maximal for conditioner tones near to a unit's characteristic frequency (CF), the frequency to which a neuron is most sensitive. However, in most physiological studies, the frequency of the probe tone and CF are identical, so the role of unit CF and probe frequency cannot be distinguished. Here, we systemically varied the frequency of the probe tone, and found that the tuning of suppression was often more closely related to the frequency of the probe tone than to the unit's CF, i.e. suppressed tuning was specific to probe frequency. This relationship was maintained for all measured gaps between the conditioner and the probe tones. However, when the probe frequency and CF were similar, CF tended to determine suppressed tuning. In addition, the bandwidth of suppression was slightly wider for off-CF probes. Changes in tuning were also reflected in the firing rate in response to probe tones, which was maximally reduced when probe and conditioner tones were matched in frequency. These data are consistent with the idea that cortical neurons receive convergent inputs with a wide range of tuning properties that can adapt independently.
doi:10.1111/j.1460-9568.2010.07568.x
PMCID: PMC3108068  PMID: 21226777
auditory cortex; context dependence; forward suppression; frequency specificity; guinea pig
8.  Mapping feature-sensitivity and attentional modulation in human auditory cortex with functional magnetic resonance imaging 
The European Journal of Neuroscience  2011;33(9):1733-1741.
Feature-specific enhancement refers to the process by which selectively attending to a particular stimulus feature specifically increases the response in the same region of the brain that codes that stimulus property. Whereas there are many demonstrations of this mechanism in the visual system, the evidence is less clear in the auditory system. The present functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study examined this process for two complex sound features, namely frequency modulation (FM) and spatial motion. The experimental design enabled us to investigate whether selectively attending to FM and spatial motion enhanced activity in those auditory cortical areas that were sensitive to the two features. To control for attentional effort, the difficulty of the target-detection tasks was matched as closely as possible within listeners. Locations of FM-related and motion-related activation were broadly compatible with previous research. The results also confirmed a general enhancement across the auditory cortex when either feature was being attended to, as compared with passive listening. The feature-specific effects of selective attention revealed the novel finding of enhancement for the nonspatial (FM) feature, but not for the spatial (motion) feature. However, attention to spatial features also recruited several areas outside the auditory cortex. Further analyses led us to conclude that feature-specific effects of selective attention are not statistically robust, and appear to be sensitive to the choice of fMRI experimental design and localizer contrast.
doi:10.1111/j.1460-9568.2011.07656.x
PMCID: PMC3110306  PMID: 21447093
auditory motion; frequency modulation; localizer contrast; selective attention
9.  Classification of frequency response areas in the inferior colliculus reveals continua not discrete classes 
The Journal of Physiology  2013;591(16):4003-4025.
A differential response to sound frequency is a fundamental property of auditory neurons. Frequency analysis in the cochlea gives rise to V-shaped tuning functions in auditory nerve fibres, but by the level of the inferior colliculus (IC), the midbrain nucleus of the auditory pathway, neuronal receptive fields display diverse shapes that reflect the interplay of excitation and inhibition. The origin and nature of these frequency receptive field types is still open to question. One proposed hypothesis is that the frequency response class of any given neuron in the IC is predominantly inherited from one of three major afferent pathways projecting to the IC, giving rise to three distinct receptive field classes. Here, we applied subjective classification, principal component analysis, cluster analysis, and other objective statistical measures, to a large population (2826) of frequency response areas from single neurons recorded in the IC of the anaesthetised guinea pig. Subjectively, we recognised seven frequency response classes (V-shaped, non-monotonic Vs, narrow, closed, tilt down, tilt up and double-peaked), that were represented at all frequencies. We could identify similar classes using our objective classification tools. Importantly, however, many neurons exhibited properties intermediate between these classes, and none of the objective methods used here showed evidence of discrete response classes. Thus receptive field shapes in the IC form continua rather than discrete classes, a finding consistent with the integration of afferent inputs in the generation of frequency response areas. The frequency disposition of inhibition in the response areas of some neurons suggests that across-frequency inputs originating at or below the level of the IC are involved in their generation.
doi:10.1113/jphysiol.2013.255943
PMCID: PMC3764642  PMID: 23753527

Results 1-9 (9)