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Organization and trade-off of spectro-temporal tuning properties of duration-tuned neurons in the mammalian inferior colliculus

Morrison JA, Farzan F, Fremouw T, Sayegh R, Covey E, Faure PA.

Neurons throughout the mammalian central auditory pathway respond selectively to stimulus frequency and amplitude, and some are also selective for stimulus duration. First found in the auditory midbrain or inferior colliculus (IC), these duration-tuned neurons (DTNs) provide a potential neural mechanism for encoding temporal features of sound. In this study, we investigated how having an additional neural response filter, one selective to the duration of an auditory stimulus, influences frequency tuning and neural organization by recording single-unit responses and measuring the dorsal-ventral position and spectral-temporal tuning properties of auditory DTNs from the IC of the awake big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus). Like other IC neurons, DTNs were tonotopically organized and had either V-shaped, U-shaped, or O-shaped frequency tuning curves (excitatory frequency response areas). We hypothesized there would be an interaction between frequency and duration tuning in DTNs, as electrical engineering theory for resonant filters dictates a trade-off in spectral-temporal resolution: sharp tuning in the frequency domain results in poorer resolution in the time domain and vice versa. While the IC is a more complex signal analyzer than an electrical filter, a similar operational trade-off could exist in the responses of DTNs. Our data revealed two patterns of spectro-temporal sensitivity and spatial organization within the IC: DTNs with sharp frequency tuning and broad duration tuning were located in the dorsal IC, whereas cells with wide spectral tuning and narrow temporal tuning were found in the ventral IC.

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