The principal neurons of the dorsal cochlear nucleus have complex response properties, many of which are classified as type IV. These units integrate energy in the acoustic signal in a nonlinear fashion; for example, at high sound levels the response to a noise of narrow bandwidth and to a band-reject filtered noise with a spectral notch of the same bandwidth may both be inhibitory. However, the sum of these two stimuli, which is broadband noise (BBN), generally gives an excitatory response. In other situations, linear interactions among stimulus components are observed. In this paper, three regimes of approximate linearity were identified. First, best-frequency (BF) tones and equal-energy narrow noisebands centered at BF evoke almost the same response, which is consistent with a stage of linear filtering followed by a nonlinearity that generates the rate responses of the neuron. Second, for sounds close to threshold (10-15 dB re threshold), energy over the full bandwidth of the unit is integrated linearly. Within this regime, responses to the narrow noiseband and the spectral notch mentioned above do sum to equal the response to BBN. Finally, two noisebands centered at different frequencies, such that their sum is a notch in a broad band of noise, sum linearly at low sound levels; the degree of linearity improves as the separation between the noisebands increases. The results are interpreted in terms of a model of type IV response generation containing two inhibitory interneurons: type II units, which are active for narrowband stimuli, including tones, and the wideband inhibitor, which is active for broadband stimuli. In most cases, the onset of nonlinearity occurs for stimuli that significantly activate the type II inhibitory interneuron.
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