In the present study, we investigated the auditory response features of the medial geniculate neurones, using in vivo intracellular recordings in anaesthetized guinea pigs. Of the 76 neurones examined, 9 showed 'off' or 'on-off' responses to an acoustic stimulus and thus were defined as 'off' or 'on-off' neurones. Among the remaining 67 neurones, 42 showed an excitatory postsynaptic potential (EPSP) to acoustic stimuli and 25 showed either a pure inhibitory postsynaptic potential (IPSP, 7 neurones), or an IPSP preceded by an EPSP (EPSP-IPSP type, 18 neurones). The EPSP responses exhibited a mean latency of 15.7 +/- 6.1 ms, which was significantly shorter than that of the IPSP responses (21.3 +/- 8.6 ms, P < 0.01). The IPSP responses also showed a significantly greater duration than the EPSP responses (208.5 +/- 128.2 ms versus 122.4 +/- 84.8 ms, P < 0.05), while there were no significant differences between the amplitudes of IPSP and EPSP (8.3 +/- 3.2 mV versus 8.7 +/- 5.3 mV). Of the 11 neurones that showed EPSP responses to acoustic stimuli and were histologically labelled, 7 were located in the lemniscal medial geniculate body (MGB) and 4 in the non-lemniscal MGB. Another 6 labelled neurones that showed IPSP responses to acoustic stimuli were located in the non-lemniscal MGB. With a membrane potential of above -72 mV, the neurones showed greater EPSP or IPSP to an acoustic stimulus when their membrane potential was depolarized. However, upon hyperpolarization to below -74 mV, the neurones shifted to low-threshold calcium spikes (LTS)/LTS bursts. In response to auditory stimuli of different durations, 'off' neurones that responded to the offset of the acoustic stimulus and were located in the non-lemniscal MGB showed different response latencies or deviations of latencies in addition to exhibiting different numbers of spikes, suggesting that the timing of the spikes could be another component utilized by thalamic neurones to encode information on the stimulus. Given that some non-lemniscal neurones are multisensory and project to the entire auditory cortex, the selective corticofugal inhibition in the non-lemniscal MGB would enable the ascending pathway to prepare the auditory cortex to receive subsequent auditory information, avoiding the interference of other sensory inputs.