This study proposes a classification system for neurons in the central nucleus of the inferior colliculus (ICC) that is based on excitation and inhibition patterns of single-unit responses in decerebrate cats. The decerebrate preparation allowed extensive characterization of physiological response types without the confounding effects of anesthesia. The tone- driven discharge rates of individual units were measured across a range of frequencies and levels to map excitatory and inhibitory response areas for contralateral monaural stimulation. The resulting frequency response maps can be grouped into the following three populations: type V maps exhibit a wide V-shaped excitatory area and no inhibition: type 1 maps show a more restricted I-shaped region of excitation that is flanked by inhibition at lower and higher frequencies; and type O maps display an O-shaped island of excitation at low stimulus levels that is bounded by inhibition at higher levels. Units that produce a type V map typically have a low best frequency (BF: the most sensitive frequency), a low rate of spontaneous activity, and monotonic rate-level functions for both BF tones and broadband noise. Type I and type O units have BFs that span the cat's range of audible frequencies and high rates of spontaneous activity. Like type V units, type I units are excited by BF tones and noise at all levels, but their rate-level functions may become nonmonotonic at high levels. Type O units are inhibited by BF tones and noise at high levels. The existence of distinct response types is consistent with a conceptual model in which the unit types receive dominant inputs from different sources and shows that these functionally segregated pathways are specialized to play complementary roles in the processing of auditory information.
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