Temporal and mean rate discharge patterns of single units in the dorsal cochlear nucleus of the anesthetized guinea pig

J Neurophysiol. 1996 Sep;76(3):1667-88. doi: 10.1152/jn.1996.76.3.1667.


1. We examined the temporal and mean rate discharge characteristics of 514 single units recorded extracellularly from the dorsal cochlear nucleus (DCN) of anesthetized guinea pigs. A mean rate response area (receptive field) was measured for the majority of units in this study. Each response area was placed in one of seven categories (type I to type V and the intermediate types I/III and IV-T) as defined by previous workers. The shape of the best frequency (BF) rate-level function has been used to aid in the distinction between type IV and type IV-T units, and the classification of type II units is based on their relative response to noise and tone bursts. 2. The threshold of single units was normalized to the cochlear action potential (CAP) threshold (a negative relative threshold indicates that the unit's threshold was more sensitive than the corresponding CAP threshold). There were significant differences (P < 0.05; 1-way analysis of variance--Duncan test) between the mean relative thresholds of type IV units (-12 dB) and those of type I (-6.52 dB), type II (-3 dB), and type I/III units (-4.25 dB). There were also significant differences between the relative thresholds of types III and IV-T and those of types I/III and II. 3. Rate-level functions at a unit's BF were divided into groups according to shape and degree of nonmonotonicity. Six units responded with a decrease in firing rate at all suprathreshold sound levels. However, most units increased their discharge rate over approximately the first 20 dB above BF threshold. Units were further subdivided by the change in slope 20 dB above BF threshold. The majority of units (60%) showed monotonic increases in discharge rate with sound level: some rate-level functions clearly resembled the sloping saturation rate-level functions observed in intermediate-threshold auditory nerve fibers. An unexpected finding was the relatively large number of nonmonotonic rate-level functions (40%). Among a relatively homogenous group of projection neurons (predominantly type IV and pause/build units) with nonmonotonic rate-level functions, the range of "best intensities" (the sound level evoking the highest discharge rate) was < 50 dB. This range of best intensities is narrower than found in higher auditory nuclei. 4. Units were also classified by their temporal activity pattern in response to suprathreshold BF tones. The most common pattern identified is the pause/build pattern (n = 294). This temporal activity pattern has been associated with the principal output neuron of the DCN, the fusiform cell. Our definition of pause/build units includes units with an almost constant steady-state discharge rate. Nonmonotonic rate-level functions were observed in 42% (99 of 233) of pause/build units. A measure of discharge regularity (the SD of the interspike interval/mean interspike interval: coefficient of variation, CV) revealed that the majority (82%) of units classified as pause/build and with steady-state discharge rates > 75 spikes/s (n = 142) were characterized by regular discharge patterns (CV = 0.41 +/- 0.15, mean +/- SD). 5. Units characterized by chopper or onset-type discharges were the next most frequently encountered units. The chopper units (n = 75) showed a regular discharge (CV = 0.39 +/- 0.17) similar to that found in recordings from the ventral division of the cochlear nucleus (VCN). One difference between many chopper units in the DCN compared with those recorded in the VCN was the relatively high value (> 5 ms) of the mean interspike interval (and thus the low steady-state discharge rate). The majority (44 of 59; 75%) of chopper units had monotonic rate-level functions. Onset units (n = 47) may represent several response types, linked by the predominance of discharges in response to stimulus onset, and the majority of onset units reported here bear little resemblance to onset units recorded in the VCN of the guinea pig. Approximately 10% of units did not fit easily into any of th

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Anesthesia, General
  • Animals
  • Auditory Threshold / physiology
  • Cats
  • Cochlear Nucleus / anatomy & histology
  • Cochlear Nucleus / cytology
  • Cochlear Nucleus / physiology*
  • Decision Trees
  • Electrophysiology
  • Evoked Potentials, Auditory / physiology*
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Microelectrodes
  • Neurons / classification
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Synapses / physiology
  • Time Factors