High frequency sensitivity to interaural onset time differences in the bat inferior colliculus
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Many neurons in the auditory midbrain are tuned to binaural cues. Two prominent binaural cues are the interaural level difference (ILD) and the interaural time difference (ITD). The ITD cue can further be subdivided into the ongoing envelope ITD cues and transient onset ITD cues. More is known about the sensitivity of single neurons to ongoing envelope ITDs compared to transient onset ITDs in the mammalian auditory system, particularly in bats. The current study examines the response properties of single neurons in the inferior colliculus (IC) of the big brown bat, Eptesicus fuscus, to onset ITDs in response to high frequency pure tones. Measures of neurons' dynamic ITD response revealed an average change of 36% of its maximum response within the behaviorally relevant range of ITDs (±50 µs). Across all IC neurons, we measured an average time-intensity trading ratio of 30 µs/dB in the sensitivity of the ITD response function to changing ILDs. Minimum and maximum ITD responses were clustered within a narrow range of ITDs. The average peak in the ITD response function was at 268 µs, a finding that is consistent with other non-echolocating mammals. Some ITD-sensitive neurons also showed weak facilitation of maximum response during binaural stimulation, compared to monaural stimulation. These results suggest that echolocating bats possess the potential to use onset ITD cues to assist in the azimuthal sound localization of ultrasonic frequencies.
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