Binaural mechanism revealed with in vivo whole cell patch clamp recordings in the inferior colliculus
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Many cells in the inferior colliculus (IC) are excited by contralateral and inhibited by ipsilateral stimulation and are thought to be important for sound localization. These excitatory-inhibitory (EI) cells comprise a diverse group, even though they exhibit a common binaural response property. Previous extracellular studies proposed specific excitatory and/or inhibitory events that should be evoked by each ear and thereby generate each of the EI discharge properties. The proposals were inferences based on the well established response features of neurons in lower nuclei, the projections of those nuclei, their excitatory or inhibitory neurochemistry, and the changes in response features that occurred when inhibition was blocked. Here we recorded the inputs, the postsynaptic potentials, discharges evoked by monaural and binaural signals in EI cells with in vivo whole cell recordings from the inferior colliculus (IC) of awake bats. We also computed the excitatory and inhibitory synaptic conductances from the recorded sound evoked responses. First, we showed that a minority of EI cells either inherited their binaural property from a lower binaural nucleus or the EI property was created in the IC via inhibitory projections from the ipsilateral ear, features consistent with those observed in extracellular studies. Second, we showed that in a majority of EI cells ipsilateral signals evoked subthreshold EPSPs that behaved paradoxically in that EPSP amplitudes increased with intensity, even though binaural signals with the same ipsilateral intensities generated progressively greater spike suppressions. These ipsilateral EPSPs were unexpected since they could not have been detected with extracellular recordings. These additional responses suggested that the circuitry underlying EI cells was more complex than previously suggested. We also proposed the functional significance of ipsilaterally evoked EPSPs in responding to moving sound sources or multiple sounds. Third, by computing synaptic conductances, we showed the circuitry of the EI cells was even more complicated than those suggested by PSPs, and we also evaluated how the binaural property was produced by the contralateral and ipsilateral synaptic events.