The roles potassium currents play in regulating the electrical activity of ventral cochlear nucleus neurons

J Neurophysiol. 2003 Jun;89(6):3097-113. doi: 10.1152/jn.00127.2002.


Using kinetic data from three different K+ currents in acutely isolated neurons, a single electrical compartment representing the soma of a ventral cochlear nucleus (VCN) neuron was created. The K+ currents include a fast transient current (IA), a slow-inactivating low-threshold current (ILT), and a noninactivating high-threshold current (IHT). The model also includes a fast-inactivating Na+ current, a hyperpolarization-activated cation current (Ih), and 1-50 auditory nerve synapses. With this model, the role IA, ILT, and IHT play in shaping the discharge patterns of VCN cells is explored. Simulation results indicate that IHT mainly functions to repolarize the membrane during an action potential, and IA functions to modulate the rate of repetitive firing. ILT is found to be responsible for the phasic discharge pattern observed in Type II cells (bushy cells). However, by adjusting the strength of ILT, both phasic and regular discharge patterns are observed, demonstrating that a critical level of ILT is necessary to produce the Type II response. Simulated Type II cells have a significantly faster membrane time constant in comparison to Type I cells (stellate cells) and are therefore better suited to preserve temporal information in their auditory nerve inputs by acting as precise coincidence detectors and having a short refractory period. Finally, we demonstrate that modulation of Ih, which changes the resting membrane potential, is a more effective means of modulating the activation level of ILT than simply modulating ILT itself. This result may explain why ILT and Ih are often coexpressed throughout the nervous system.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Animals
  • Brain Stem / physiology
  • Cell Culture Techniques
  • Cochlear Nucleus / physiology*
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Membrane Potentials
  • Models, Biological*
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Potassium Channels / physiology*


  • Potassium Channels