Linear and nonlinear pathways of spectral information transmission in the cochlear nucleus

Jane J. Yu, Eric D. Young

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


At the level of the cochlear nucleus (CN), the auditory pathway divides into several parallel circuits, each of which provides a different representation of the acoustic signal. Here, the representation of the power spectrum of an acoustic signal is analyzed for two CN principal cells - chopper neurons of the ventral CN and type IV neurons of the dorsal CN. The analysis is based on a weighting function model that relates the discharge rate of a neuron to first- and second-order transformations of the power spectrum. In chopper neurons, the transformation of spectral level into rate is a linear (i.e., first-order) or nearly linear function. This transformation is a predominantly excitatory process involving multiple frequency components, centered in a narrow frequency range about best frequency, that usually are processed independently of each other. In contrast, type IV neurons encode spectral information linearly only near threshold. At higher stimulus levels, these neurons are strongly inhibited by spectral notches, a behavior that cannot be explained by level transformations of first- or second-order. Type IV weighting functions reveal complex excitatory and inhibitory interactions that involve frequency components spanning a wider range than that seen in choppers. These findings suggest that chopper and type IV neurons form parallel pathways of spectral information transmission that are governed by two different mechanisms. Although choppers use a predominantly linear mechanism to transmit tonotopic representations of spectra, type IV neurons use highly nonlinear processes to signal the presence of wide-band spectral features.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11780-11786
Number of pages7
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number22
StatePublished - Oct 24 2000
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


Dive into the research topics of 'Linear and nonlinear pathways of spectral information transmission in the cochlear nucleus'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this