Computational Models of Millisecond Level Duration Tuning in Neural Circuits
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Discrimination of stimulus duration on the order of milliseconds has been observed in behavioral and neurophysiological studies across a variety of species and taxa. Several studies conducted in mammals have found neurons in the auditory midbrain (inferior colliculus) that are selective for signal duration. Duration selectivity in these cells arises from an interaction of excitatory and inhibitory events occurring at particular latencies from stimulus onset and offset. As previously shown in barn owls, coincidence of delayed, excitatory events can be used by the CNS to respond selectively to specific stimuli in auditory space. This study formulates several computational models of duration tuning that combine existing conceptual models with observed physiological responses in the auditory brainstem and midbrain to evaluate the plausibility of the proposed neural mechanisms. The computational models are able to reproduce a wide range of in vivo responses including best duration tuning, duration-selective response classes, spike counts, first-spike latencies, level tolerance to changes in signal amplitude, and neuropharmacological effects of applying inhibitory neurotransmitter antagonists to duration-tuned neurons. A unified model of duration tuning is proposed that enhances classic models of duration tuning, emphasizes similarities across the models, and simplifies our understanding of duration tuning across species and sensory modalities.
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