Counting on dis-inhibition: a circuit motif for interval counting and selectivity in the anuran auditory system

J Neurophysiol. 2015 Nov;114(5):2804-15. doi: 10.1152/jn.00138.2015. Epub 2015 Sep 2.


Information can be encoded in the temporal patterning of spikes. How the brain reads these patterns is of general importance and represents one of the greatest challenges in neuroscience. We addressed this issue in relation to temporal pattern recognition in the anuran auditory system. Many species of anurans perform mating decisions based on the temporal structure of advertisement calls. One important temporal feature is the number of sound pulses that occur with a species-specific interpulse interval. Neurons representing this pulse count have been recorded in the anuran inferior colliculus, but the mechanisms underlying their temporal selectivity are incompletely understood. Here, we construct a parsimonious model that can explain the key dynamical features of these cells with biologically plausible elements. We demonstrate that interval counting arises naturally when combining interval-selective inhibition with pulse-per-pulse excitation having both fast- and slow-conductance synapses. Interval-dependent inhibition is modeled here by a simple architecture based on known physiology of afferent nuclei. Finally, we consider simple implementations of previously proposed mechanistic explanations for these counting neurons and show that they do not account for all experimental observations. Our results demonstrate that tens of millisecond-range temporal selectivities can arise from simple connectivity motifs of inhibitory neurons, without recourse to internal clocks, spike-frequency adaptation, or appreciable short-term plasticity.

Keywords: auditory processing; counting; interval selectivity; neural network; temporal features.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Action Potentials*
  • Animals
  • Anura
  • Auditory Pathways / physiology
  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Inferior Colliculi / physiology*
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Neural Inhibition*
  • Neural Networks, Computer
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Time Factors
  • Vocalization, Animal