An investigation of dendritic delay in octopus cells of the mammalian cochlear nucleus
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Octopus cells, located in the mammalian auditory brainstem, receive their excitatory synaptic input exclusively from auditory nerve fibers (ANFs). They respond with accurately timed spikes but are broadly tuned for sound frequency. Since the representation of information in the auditory nerve is well understood, it is possible to pose a number of questions about the relationship between the intrinsic electrophysiology, dendritic morphology, synaptic connectivity, and the ultimate functional role of octopus cells in the brainstem. This study employed a multi-compartmental Hodgkin-Huxley model to determine whether dendritic delay in octopus cells improves synaptic input coincidence detection in octopus cells by compensating for the cochlear traveling wave delay. The propagation time of post-synaptic potentials from synapse to soma was investigated. We found that the total dendritic delay was approximately 0.275 ms. It was observed that low-threshold potassium channels in the dendrites reduce the amplitude dependence of the dendritic delay of post-synaptic potentials. As our hypothesis predicted, the model was most sensitive to acoustic onset events, such as the glottal pulses in speech when the synaptic inputs were arranged such that the model's dendritic delay compensated for the cochlear traveling wave delay across the ANFs. The range of sound frequency input from ANFs was also investigated. The results suggested that input to octopus cells is dominated by high frequency ANFs.
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