Inhibition plays an important role in creating the temporal response properties of duration-tuned neurons (DTNs) in the mammalian inferior colliculus (IC). Neurophysiological and computational studies indicate that duration selectivity in the IC is created through the convergence of excitatory and inhibitory synaptic inputs offset in time. We used paired-tone stimulation and extracellular recording to measure the frequency tuning of the inhibition acting on DTNs in the IC of the big brown bat ( Eptesicus fuscus). We stimulated DTNs with pairs of tones differing in duration, onset time, and frequency. The onset time of a short, best-duration (BD), probe tone set to the best excitatory frequency (BEF) was varied relative to the onset of a longer-duration, nonexcitatory (NE) tone whose frequency was varied. When the NE tone frequency was near or within the cell’s excitatory bandwidth (eBW), BD tone-evoked spikes were suppressed by an onset-evoked inhibition. The onset of the spike suppression was independent of stimulus frequency, but both the offset and duration of the suppression decreased as the NE tone frequency departed from the BEF. We measured the inhibitory frequency response area, best inhibitory frequency (BIF), and inhibitory bandwidth (iBW) of each cell. We found that the BIF closely matched the BEF, but the iBW was broader and usually overlapped the eBW measured from the same cell. These data suggest that temporal selectivity of midbrain DTNs is created and preserved by having cells receive an onset-evoked, constant-latency, broadband inhibition that largely overlaps the cell’s excitatory receptive field. We conclude by discussing possible neural sources of the inhibition.
NEW & NOTEWORTHY Duration-tuned neurons (DTNs) arise from temporally offset excitatory and inhibitory synaptic inputs. We used single-unit recording and paired-tone stimulation to measure the spectral tuning of the inhibitory inputs to DTNs. The onset of inhibition was independent of stimulus frequency; the offset and duration of inhibition systematically decreased as the stimulus departed from the cell’s best excitatory frequency. Best inhibitory frequencies matched best excitatory frequencies; however, inhibitory bandwidths were more broadly tuned than excitatory bandwidths.