Convergent input from brainstem coincidence detectors onto delay- sensitive neurons in the inferior colliculus

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Responses of low-frequency neurons in the inferior colliculus (IC) of anesthetized guinea pigs were studied with binaural beats to assess their mean best interaural phase (BP) to a range of stimulating frequencies. Phase plots (stimulating frequency vs BP) were produced, from which measures of characteristic delay (CD) and characteristic phase (CP) for each neuron were obtained. The CD provides an estimate of the difference in travel time from each ear to coincidence-detector neurons in the brainstem. The CP indicates the mechanism underpinning the coincidence detector responses. A linear phase plot indicates a single, constant delay between the coincidencedetector inputs from the two ears. In more than half (54 of 90) of the neurons, the phase plot was not linear. We hypothesized that neurons with nonlinear phase plots received convergent input from brainstem coincidence detectors with different CDs. Presentation of a second tone with a fixed, unfavorable delay suppressed the response of one input, linearizing the phase plot and revealing other inputs to be relatively simple coincidence detectors. For some neurons with highly complex phase plots, the suppressor tone altered BP values, but did not resolve the nature of the inputs. For neurons with linear phase plots, the suppressor tone either completely abolished their responses or reduced their discharge rate with no change in BR by selectively suppressing inputs with a second tone, we are able to reveal the nature of underlying binaural inputs to IC neurons, confirming the hypothesis that the complex phase plots of many IC neurons are a result of convergence from simple brainstem coincidence detectors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6026-6039
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number15
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Binaural hearing
  • Convergent binaural input
  • Inferior colliculus
  • Interaural phase differences
  • Phase plots
  • Suppressor tones


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