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Neuron

The sound of silence: ionic mechanisms encoding sound termination.


PMID 21903083

Abstract

Offset responses upon termination of a stimulus are crucial for perceptual grouping and gap detection. These gaps are key features of vocal communication, but an ionic mechanism capable of generating fast offsets from auditory stimuli has proven elusive. Offset firing arises in the brainstem superior paraolivary nucleus (SPN), which receives powerful inhibition during sound and converts this into precise action potential (AP) firing upon sound termination. Whole-cell patch recording in vitro showed that offset firing was triggered by IPSPs rather than EPSPs. We show that AP firing can emerge from inhibition through integration of large IPSPs, driven by an extremely negative chloride reversal potential (E(Cl)), combined with a large hyperpolarization-activated nonspecific cationic current (I(H)), with a secondary contribution from a T-type calcium conductance (I(TCa)). On activation by the IPSP, I(H) potently accelerates the membrane time constant, so when the sound ceases, a rapid repolarization triggers multiple offset APs that match onset timing accuracy.

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