Indexed on: 01 Jan '10Published on: 01 Jan '10Published in: Journal of neurophysiology
We report evidence of mode-locking to the envelope of a periodic stimulus in chopper units of the ventral cochlear nucleus (VCN). Mode-locking is a generalized description of how responses in periodically forced nonlinear systems can be closely linked to the input envelope, while showing temporal patterns of higher order than seen during pure phase-locking. Re-analyzing a previously unpublished dataset in response to amplitude modulated tones, we find that of 55% of cells (6/11) demonstrated stochastic mode-locking in response to sinusoidally amplitude modulated (SAM) pure tones at 50% modulation depth. At 100% modulation depth SAM, most units (3/4) showed mode-locking. We use interspike interval (ISI) scattergrams to unravel the temporal structure present in chopper mode-locked responses. These responses compared well to a leaky integrate-and-fire model (LIF) model of chopper units. Thus the timing of spikes in chopper unit responses to periodic stimuli can be understood in terms of the complex dynamics of periodically forced nonlinear systems. A larger set of onset (33) and chopper units (24) of the VCN also shows mode-locked responses to steady-state vowels and cosine-phase harmonic complexes. However, while 80% of chopper responses to complex stimuli meet our criterion for the presence of mode-locking, only 40% of onset cells show similar complex-modes of spike patterns. We found a correlation between a unit's regularity and its tendency to display mode-locked spike trains as well as a correlation in the number of spikes per cycle and the presence of complex-modes of spike patterns. These spiking patterns are sensitive to the envelope as well as the fundamental frequency of complex sounds, suggesting that complex cell dynamics may play a role in encoding periodic stimuli and envelopes in the VCN.