Accurate sound source localization of low-frequency sounds in the horizontal plane depends critically on the comparison of arrival times at both ears. A specialized brainstem circuit containing the principal neurons of the medial superior olive (MSO) is dedicated to this comparison. MSO neurons are innervated by segregated inputs from both ears. The coincident arrival of excitatory inputs from both ears is thought to trigger action potentials, with differences in internal delays creating a unique sensitivity to interaural time differences (ITDs) for each cell. How the inputs from both ears are integrated by the MSO neurons is still debated. Using juxtacellular recordings, we tested to what extent MSO neurons from anesthetized Mongolian gerbils function as simple cross-correlators of their bilateral inputs. From the measured subthreshold responses to monaural wideband stimuli we predicted the rate-ITD functions obtained from the same MSO neuron, which have a damped oscillatory shape. The rate of the oscillations and the position of the peaks and troughs were accurately predicted. The amplitude ratio between dominant and secondary peaks of the rate-ITD function, captured in the width of its envelope, was not always exactly reproduced. This minor imperfection pointed to the methodological limitation of using a linear representation of the monaural inputs, which disregards any temporal sharpening occurring in the cochlear nucleus. The successful prediction of the major aspects of rate-ITD curves supports a simple scheme in which the ITD sensitivity of MSO neurons is realized by the coincidence detection of excitatory monaural inputs.
- coincidence detection
- interaural correlation
- Copyright © 2016 the American Physiological Society
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