Physiological properties of neurons in the mouse superior olive: membrane characteristics and postsynaptic responses studied in vitro

J Neurophysiol. 1991 Feb;65(2):230-46. doi: 10.1152/jn.1991.65.2.230.


1. The physiological properties of cells in the superior olivary complex (SOC) were studied in 400-microns brain slices taken through the mouse auditory brain stem. Coronal sections were prepared from fresh brain tissue and were placed fully submerged in an oxygenated saline solution. The boundaries of the medial nucleus of the trapezoid body (MNTB), the lateral superior olive (LSO), and the fibers of the trapezoid body were visualized through a dissecting microscope, and micropipettes filled with 4 M potassium acetate were inserted into the LSO or MNTB. 2. Bipolar stimulating electrodes were placed along the trapezoid body usually at the midline decussation and at a location just lateral to the LSO. This arrangement allowed for stimulation of the trapezoid body both contralateral and ipsilateral to the SOC. Synaptic potentials were elicited by delivering brief (0.1 ms) current pulses to the fibers of the trapezoid body. In some cases the integrity of the fibers was confirmed by transport of horseradish peroxidase (HRP) after extracellular microinjections at various locations along the pathway. The HRP reaction product revealed active transport within the trapezoid body and characteristic synaptic and terminal morphology in the MNTB and LSO. The MNTB contained primarily large-diameter fibers terminating in specialized endings (the calyces of Held), whereas the LSO contained mainly small-diameter fibers and punctate terminal boutons. 3. Membrane characteristics of cells in MNTB and LSO were determined by injecting current into the cell and measuring the corresponding voltage change. Neurons in LSO exhibited a roughly linear relation between voltage and intracellularly injected current. Negative current resulted in a graded hyperpolarization of the cell membrane, and positive current resulted in a graded depolarization that led to the production of action potentials. The number of action potentials was directly related to the strength of the current injected. In contrast, the neurons in MNTB had current-voltage relations that were strongly nonlinear around resting potential. The injection of negative current led to graded hyperpolarization, but injection of positive current produced a limited depolarization that resulted in either a single large action potential or an action potential followed by several spikes with greatly reduced amplitude. 4. Excitatory postsynaptic potentials (EPSPs) could be elicited in LSO by ipsilateral stimulation of the trapezoid body and in MNTB by contralateral stimulation. In response to repeated stimulation, some cells in LSO exhibited temporal summation, that is, a series of slightly subthreshold current pulses produced postsynaptic potentials that combined to elicit action potentials.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • Brain Stem / physiology
  • Horseradish Peroxidase
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Membrane Potentials / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Olivary Nucleus / cytology
  • Olivary Nucleus / physiology*
  • Reaction Time
  • Synapses / physiology*


  • Horseradish Peroxidase