by Chen Chen, Heather L. Read, Monty A. Escabí
Accurately resolving frequency components in sounds is essential for sound recognition, yet there is little direct evidence for how frequency selectivity is preserved or newly created across auditory structures. We demonstrate that prepotentials (PPs) with physiological properties resembling presynaptic potentials from broadly tuned brainstem inputs can be recorded concurrently with postsynaptic action potentials in inferior colliculus (IC). These putative brainstem inputs (PBIs) are broadly tuned and exhibit delayed and spectrally interleaved excitation and inhibition not present in the simultaneously recorded IC neurons (ICNs). A sharpening of tuning is accomplished locally at the expense of spike-timing precision through nonlinear temporal integration of broadband inputs. A neuron model replicates the finding and demonstrates that temporal integration alone can degrade timing precision while enhancing frequency tuning through interference of spectrally in- and out-of-phase inputs. These findings suggest that, in contrast to current models that require local inhibition, frequency selectivity can be sharpened through temporal integration, thus supporting an alternative computational strategy to quickly refine frequency selectivity.