Multidimensional characterization and differentiation of neurons in the anteroventral cochlear nucleus

PLoS One. 2012;7(1):e29965. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0029965. Epub 2012 Jan 9.


Multiple parallel auditory pathways ascend from the cochlear nucleus. It is generally accepted that the origin of these pathways are distinct groups of neurons differing in their anatomical and physiological properties. In extracellular in vivo recordings these neurons are typically classified on the basis of their peri-stimulus time histogram. In the present study we reconsider the question of classification of neurons in the anteroventral cochlear nucleus (AVCN) by taking a wider range of response properties into account. The study aims at a better understanding of the AVCN's functional organization and its significance as the source of different ascending auditory pathways. The analyses were based on 223 neurons recorded in the AVCN of the Mongolian gerbil. The range of analysed parameters encompassed spontaneous activity, frequency coding, sound level coding, as well as temporal coding. In order to categorize the unit sample without any presumptions as to the relevance of certain response parameters, hierarchical cluster analysis and additional principal component analysis were employed which both allow a classification on the basis of a multitude of parameters simultaneously. Even with the presently considered wider range of parameters, high number of neurons and more advanced analytical methods, no clear boundaries emerged which would separate the neurons based on their physiology. At the current resolution of the analysis, we therefore conclude that the AVCN units more likely constitute a multi-dimensional continuum with different physiological characteristics manifested at different poles. However, more complex stimuli could be useful to uncover physiological differences in future studies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • Anterior Thalamic Nuclei / cytology*
  • Cell Differentiation*
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Cochlear Nucleus / cytology*
  • Gerbillinae
  • Neurons / cytology*
  • Principal Component Analysis