Responses to monaural and binaural tone bursts were recorded from neurons in the rat's ventral nucleus of the lateral lemniscus (VNLL). Most of the neurons (55%) had V- or U-shaped frequency-tuning curves with a single clearly defined characteristic frequency (CF). However, many neurons had more complex, multipeaked tuning curves (37%), or other patterns (8%). Temporal firing patterns included both onset and sustained responses to contralateral tone bursts. Onset and sustained responses were distributed along the dorsoventral length of VNLL with no indication of segregation into different regions. Onset neurons had shorter average first-spike latencies than neurons with sustained responses (means, 8.3 vs. 14.8 ms). They also had less jitter, as reflected in the SD of first-spike latencies, than neurons with sustained responses (means, 0.59 and 4.2 ms, respectively). The extent of jitter decreased with an increase in stimulus intensity for neurons with sustained responses, but remained unchanged for onset neurons tested over the same range. Many neurons had binaural responses, primarily of the excitatory/inhibitory (EI) type, widely distributed along the dorsoventral extent of VNLL. Local application of the AMPA receptor antagonist NBQX reduced excitatory responses, indicating that responses were dependent on synaptic activity and not recorded from passing fibers. The results show that many neurons in VNLL have a precision of timing that is well suited for processing auditory temporal information. In the rat, these neurons are intermingled among cells with less precise temporal response features and include cells with binaural as well as monaural responses.
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