GABAergic and glycinergic inhibition sharpens tuning for frequency modulations in the inferior colliculus of the big brown bat

J Neurophysiol. 1998 Jul;80(1):71-82. doi: 10.1152/jn.1998.80.1.71.


Discrimination of amplitude and frequency modulated sounds is an important task of auditory processing. Experiments have shown that tuning of neurons to sinusoidally frequency- and amplitude-modulated (SFM and SAM, respectively) sounds becomes successively narrower going from lower to higher auditory brain stem nuclei. In the inferior colliculus (IC), many neurons are sharply tuned to the modulation frequency of SFM sounds. The purpose of this study was to determine whether GABAergic or glycinergic inhibition is involved in shaping the tuning for the modulation frequency of SFM sounds in IC neurons of the big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus). We recorded the response of 56 single units in the central nucleus of the IC to SFM stimuli before and during the application of the gamma-aminobutyric acid-A (GABAA) receptor antagonist bicuculline or the glycine receptor antagonist strychnine. To evaluate tuning to the modulation frequency, the normalized spike count (normalized according to the maximal response for each condition tested) was plotted versus the modulation frequency and the upper and lower 50% cutoff points were determined. Bicuculline increased the upper cutoff in 46% of the neurons by >/=25%. The lower cutoff decreased in 48% of the neurons tested. In some neurons (approximately 30%), a sharpening of the tuning by bicuculline was observed. Strychnine induced an increase of the upper cutoff in almost half of the neurons. Compared with bicuculline these changes were smaller. The lower cutoff decreased in 50% of the neurons with strychnine. The synchronization coefficient (SC) was calculated and compared for three modulation frequencies (50, 100, and 200 Hz) between predrug and drug condition. For all neurons, synchronization decreased (n = 36) or did not change (n = 26) during drug application. This was mainly an effect of the prolonged discharge in response to each cycle. Under predrug conditions, many neurons exhibited selectivity to the direction of the FM, hence they only responded once to each cycle. In a minority of neurons, direction selectivity was abolished by drug application. The main finding was that neuronal inhibition sharpens tuning to the modulation frequency in the majority of neurons. In general, changes induced by bicuculline or strychnine were comparable.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Animals
  • Auditory Pathways / drug effects
  • Auditory Pathways / physiology*
  • Bicuculline / pharmacology*
  • Chiroptera / physiology*
  • GABA-A Receptor Antagonists
  • Inferior Colliculi / drug effects
  • Inferior Colliculi / physiology*
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Receptors, GABA-A / physiology*
  • Receptors, Glycine / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Receptors, Glycine / physiology*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Strychnine / pharmacology*


  • GABA-A Receptor Antagonists
  • Receptors, GABA-A
  • Receptors, Glycine
  • Strychnine
  • Bicuculline