Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

Subthreshold resonance properties contribute to the efficient coding of auditory spatial cues.

PMID 24843153


Neurons in the medial superior olive (MSO) and lateral superior olive (LSO) of the auditory brainstem code for sound-source location in the horizontal plane, extracting interaural time differences (ITDs) from the stimulus fine structure and interaural level differences (ILDs) from the stimulus envelope. Here, we demonstrate a postsynaptic gradient in temporal processing properties across the presumed tonotopic axis; neurons in the MSO and the low-frequency limb of the LSO exhibit fast intrinsic electrical resonances and low input impedances, consistent with their processing of ITDs in the temporal fine structure. Neurons in the high-frequency limb of the LSO show low-pass electrical properties, indicating they are better suited to extracting information from the slower, modulated envelopes of sounds. Using a modeling approach, we assess ITD and ILD sensitivity of the neural filters to natural sounds, demonstrating that the transformation in temporal processing along the tonotopic axis contributes to efficient extraction of auditory spatial cues.