Linear summation in the barn owl's brainstem underlies responses to interaural time differences

J Neurophysiol. 2013 Jul;110(1):117-30. doi: 10.1152/jn.00410.2012. Epub 2013 Apr 3.


The neurophonic potential is a synchronized frequency-following extracellular field potential that can be recorded in the nucleus laminaris (NL) in the brainstem of the barn owl. Putative generators of the neurophonic are the afferent axons from the nucleus magnocellularis, synapses onto NL neurons, and spikes of NL neurons. The outputs of NL, i.e., action potentials of NL neurons, are only weakly represented in the neurophonic. Instead, the inputs to NL, i.e., afferent axons and their synaptic potentials, are the predominant origin of the neurophonic (Kuokkanen PT, Wagner H, Ashida G, Carr CE, Kempter R. J Neurophysiol 104: 2274-2290, 2010). Thus in NL the monaural inputs from the two brain sides converge and create a binaural neurophonic. If these monaural inputs contribute independently to the extracellular field, the response to binaural stimulation can be predicted from the sum of the responses to ipsi- and contralateral stimulation. We found that a linear summation model explains the dependence of the responses on interaural time difference as measured experimentally with binaural stimulation. The fit between model predictions and data was excellent, even without taking into account the nonlinear responses of NL coincidence detector neurons, although their firing rate and synchrony strongly depend on the interaural time difference. These results are consistent with the view that the afferent axons and their synaptic potentials in NL are the primary origin of the neurophonic.

Keywords: auditory coincidence detector; extracellular field potential; neurophonic; phase locking; sound localization.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation*
  • Animals
  • Brain Stem / physiology*
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Strigiformes