Balanced inhibition and excitation underlies spike firing regularity in ventral cochlear nucleus chopper neurons


Dr A. G. Paolini, as above.1


Ventral cochlear nucleus stellate cells respond to characteristic frequency (CF) tones with sustained (CS), transient (CT) or onset chopping (OC) activity. The mechanisms underlying these different response patterns are not fully understood, and the present study used in vivo intracellular recordings (n = 42) in urethane-anaesthetized rats to examine the possible influence of inhibition on action potential regularity. Hyperpolarization following the offset of a CF tone burst was used as a measure of on-CF inhibition. A cluster analysis based on several membrane potential features, including on-CF inhibition, discriminated three groups in addition to the CS response type − two types of CT responses and the OC type. The different patterns of firing regularity exhibited by CS/T neurons reflected different thresholds or degrees of overlap between these cells' narrowly tuned excitatory and inhibitory inputs. CT cells with closely matched inhibitory and excitatory response areas showed substantial on-CF inhibition and the greatest decline in firing regularity during a CF tone, whereas those with a mismatch between their response areas showed lateral inhibition and a less marked decline in firing regularity. The presence of inhibition in CS neurons did not alter their firing regularity, possibly because of the lower threshold for excitation compared with inhibition. The latency, duration and frequency extent of sustained hyperpolarization in CS/T cells is inconsistent with the response properties of OC neurons, suggesting that another source(s) of inhibition influences firing regularity, and presumably response magnitude, in these neurons.