Mammalian auditory nerve fibers (ANF) are remarkable for being able to encode a 40 dB, or hundred fold, range of sound pressure levels into their firing rate. Most of the fibers are very sensitive and raise their quiescent spike rate by a small amount for a faint sound at auditory threshold. Then as the sound intensity is increased, they slowly increase their spike rate, with some fibers going up as high as ∼300 Hz. In this way mammals are able to combine sensitivity and wide dynamic range. They are also able to discern sounds embedded within background noise. ANF receive efferent feedback, which suggests that the fibers are readjusted according to the background noise in order to maximize the information content of their auditory spike trains. Inner hair cells activate currents in the unmyelinated distal dendrites of ANF where sound intensity is rate-coded into action potentials. We model this spike generator compartment as an attenuator that employs fast negative feedback. Input current induces rapid and proportional leak currents. This way ANF are able to have a linear frequency to input current (f-I) curve that has a wide dynamic range. The ANF spike generator remains very sensitive to threshold currents, but efferent feedback is able to lower its gain in response to noise.
Ospeck, M. (2012). Fast negative feedback enables mammalian auditory nerve fibers to encode a wide dynamic range of sound intensities. PLoS ONE, 7(3). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0032384