Role of synaptic inhibition in processing of dynamic binaural level stimuli

Dan H. Sanes, Brian J. Malone, Malcolm N. Semple

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We have recently discovered a paradoxical aftereffect associated with inhibition in the gerbil auditory midbrain. Single neurons in the inferior colliculus (IC) were assessed for sensitivity to a virtual motion stimulus produced by modulating the interaural level difference (ILD), a major cue for sound localization. The class of neuron studied was predominantly excited by contralateral stimulation and inhibited by ipsilateral stimulation. Sound pressure level was modulated trapezoidally at the ipsilateral 'inhibitory' ear, whereas the contralateral 'excitatory' level remained constant. When the inhibitory stimulus was decreased within a range of sound levels that maintained suppression under static conditions, an unexpected discharge was often elicited, apparently because of an aftereffect of synaptic inhibition. In contrast, when the inhibitory stimulus was increased within a range of sound levels that produced only modest suppression under static conditions, neuronal discharge was often profoundly suppressed. In many cases the 'conditioned enhancement' or 'conditioned suppression' persisted for several seconds after the modulation of ILD, and such conditioned responses were influenced by the modulation depth and rate. To test the effect of inhibition in the IC directly, glycine and GABA were pulsed from a glass recording pipette during a constant monaural excitatory stimulus. The acoustically elicited discharge rate was potentiated markedly if preceded immediately by the brief (0.5-10 sec) application of inhibitory transmitter. Collectively, these results revealed unusually long-lasting effects of inhibition that may establish a new range of acoustic cues to which the neuron responds best. This may have broad implications for processing ensuing auditory stimuli.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)794-803
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1998


  • Acoustic motion
  • GABA
  • Gerbil
  • Glycine
  • Inferior colliculus
  • Interaural level differences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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