Diversity of bilateral synaptic assemblies for binaural computation in midbrain single neurons

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Abstract

Binaural hearing confers many beneficial functions but our understanding of its underlying neural substrates is limited. This study examines the bilateral synaptic assemblies and binaural computation (or integration) in the central nucleus of the inferior colliculus (ICc) of the auditory midbrain, a key convergent center. Using in-vivo whole-cell patch-clamp, the excitatory and inhibitory postsynaptic potentials (EPSPs/IPSPs) of single ICc neurons to contralateral, ipsilateral and bilateral stimulation were recorded. According to the contralateral and ipsilateral EPSP/IPSP, 7 types of bilateral synaptic assemblies were identified. These include EPSP-EPSP (EE), E-IPSP (EI), E-no response (EO), II, IE, IO and complex-mode (CM) neurons. The CM neurons showed frequency- and/or amplitude-dependent EPSPs/IPSPs to contralateral or ipsilateral stimulation. Bilateral stimulation induced EPSPs/IPSPs that could be larger than (facilitation), similar to (ineffectiveness) or smaller than (suppression) those induced by contralateral stimulation. Our findings have allowed our group to characterize novel neural circuitry for binaural computation in the midbrain.

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