Synchrony, connectivity, and functional similarity in auditory midbrain local circuits

Neuroscience. 2016 Oct 29:335:30-53. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2016.08.024. Epub 2016 Aug 17.


The central nucleus of the inferior colliculus (ICC) contains a laminar structure that functions as an organizing substrate of ascending inputs and local processing. While topographic distributions of ICC response parameters within and across laminae have been reported, the functional micro-organization of the ICC is less well understood. For pairs of neighboring ICC neurons, we examined the nature of functional connectivity and receptive field preferences to gain a better understanding of the structure and function of local circuits. By recording from pairs of adjacent neurons and presenting pure-tone and dynamic broad-band stimulation, we estimated functional connectivity and local differences in frequency response areas (FRAs), spectrotemporal receptive fields (STRFs), nonlinear input/output functions, and single-spike information. From the cross-covariance functions we identified putative unidirectional as well as bidirectional excitatory/inhibitory interactions. STRFs of neighboring neurons strongly conserve best frequency, and moderately agree in STRF similarity, bandwidth, temporal response type, best modulation frequency, nonlinearity structure, and degree of information processing. Excitatory connectivity was stronger and temporally more precise than for inhibitory connections. Neither connection strength nor degree of synchrony correlated with receptive field parameters. The functional similarity of local pairs of ICC neurons was substantially less than for local pairs in the granular layers of primary auditory cortex (AI). These results imply that while the ICC is an obligatory nexus of ascending information, local neurons are comparatively weakly connected and exhibit considerable receptive field variability, potentially reflecting the heterogeneity of converging inputs to ICC functional zones.

Keywords: STRF; fine-scale networks; inferior colliculus; information; microcircuits.

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation / methods
  • Action Potentials / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Auditory Cortex / surgery*
  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Cats
  • Electrophysiology / methods
  • Female
  • Inferior Colliculi / physiology*
  • Inferior Colliculi / surgery
  • Models, Neurological
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Nerve Net / surgery
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Time Factors