The effects of interaural time difference and intensity on the coding of low-frequency sounds in the mammalian midbrain

J Neurosci. 2011 Mar 9;31(10):3821-7. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4806-10.2011.

Abstract

We examined how changes in intensity and interaural time difference (ITD) influenced the coding of low-frequency sounds in the inferior colliculus of male gerbils at both the single neuron and population levels. We found that changes in intensity along the positive slope of the rate-level function (RLF) evoked changes in spectrotemporal filtering that influenced the overall timing of spike events but preserved their precision across trials such that the decoding of single neuron responses was not affected. In contrast, changes in ITD did not trigger changes in spectrotemporal filtering, but did have strong effects on the precision of spike events and, consequently, on decoder performance. However, changes in ITD had opposing effects in the two brain hemispheres and, thus, canceled out at the population level. These results were similar with and without the addition of background noise. We also found that the effects of changes in intensity along the negative slope of the RLF were different from the effects of changes in intensity along the positive slope in that they evoked changes in both spectrotemporal filtering and in the precision of spike events across trials, as well as in decoder performance. These results demonstrate that, at least at moderate intensities, the auditory system employs different strategies at the single neuron and population levels simultaneously to ensure that the coding of sounds is robust to changes in other stimulus features.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Action Potentials / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Auditory Pathways / physiology*
  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Electrophysiology
  • Gerbillinae
  • Inferior Colliculi / physiology*
  • Male
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Reaction Time / physiology