Regularity of firing of neurons in the inferior colliculus

J Neurophysiol. 1997 Jun;77(6):2945-65. doi: 10.1152/jn.1997.77.6.2945.


The spike discharge regularity of 254 tonically firing units in the inferior colliculus (IC) of the anesthetized guinea pig was studied in response to tones presented at best frequency (BF) to the ear contralateral to the recorded IC. Regularity of firing was measured by calculating the coefficient of variation (CV) as a function of time over the course of a unit's response. Two hundred and fifteen units (56 under urethan and 159 under chloralose anesthesia) in the central nucleus of the IC (CNIC) were studied in detail. In response to tones at 15-25 dB above threshold, 80% of units in the urethan sample fired regularly (CV < 0.5) during their sustained response, and 46% were highly regular (CV < or = 0.35). For chloralose the values were 68% and 23%, respectively. Units recorded under urethan were significantly more regular than those recorded under chloralose. For units in the sample with a measurable onset CV, 63% were regular and 44% highly regular under urethan, and 73% were regular and 54% highly regular under chloralose. The units' peristimulus time histogram (PSTH) patterns were classified into subdivisions of four categories: choppers [9%: chop-sustained (Cs), chop-onset (Co)]; pausers [42%: pauser-chop-sustained (P/Cs), pauser-chop-onset (P/Co), pauser-no-chop]; ON-sustained (43%: primary-type, L-type, h-type); and sustained (6%). The presence of chopping was a reliable predictor of regularity: Cs and P/Cs units were highly regular throughout their response, whereas Co and P/Co units were highly regular at onset and became less regular. Some units in the other PSTH categories were highly regular despite the absence of chopping, and units with virtually identical PSTHs showed very different sustained CVs. Regularity was measured as a function of firing rate in 71 units. In 23%, regularity remained constant when firing rate changed with stimulus level. Forty-six percent fired more regularly as firing rate increased, 8% fired less regularly, and 23% of units showed no consistent relationship between CV and firing rate. Regularity did not correlate with the neurons' frequency response areas or BFs. Regular firing was also found in a smaller sample of units recorded in cortices surrounding the CNIC. We conclude that regular firing is a characteristic feature of most neurons in the IC. Regularity is a specific feature correlated with four PSTH types (Cs, Co, P/Cs, and P/Co). Other PSTH types may or may not exhibit regularity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Auditory Pathways / physiology
  • Brain Mapping
  • Dominance, Cerebral / physiology*
  • Evoked Potentials, Auditory / physiology
  • Female
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Inferior Colliculi / physiology*
  • Male
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Pitch Perception / physiology*
  • Sound Spectrography
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology*