Basic response determinants of single neurons to amplitude modulation in the auditory midbrain

Tzai-Wen Chiu, P. W.F. Poon*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Amplitude-modulated (AM) signals represent important components of environmental sounds. While single-cell responses to AM tones in the central auditory system were often studied using repetitive modulation, owing to its presence in vocalization signals, the AM response has not been fully depicted in terms of receptive field in the stimulus domain. This study was aimed to characterize the receptive field of AM response with respect to nonrepetitive AM stimuli and to understand how complex acoustic signals may be coded in the brain. A novel AM stimulus was implemented with a random envelope and a systemic change in intensity across trials. From 393 single units recorded in the inferior colliculus (IC) of urethane-anesthetized rats, responses to the AM stimulus were first characterized in terms of dot-raster pattern. Three types of response were identified: Type I showing a monotonic response to mainly the steady states of the AM envelope and type II to rising phases of the AM envelope with a clear intensity preference. Type III showed a mixed response of both type I and type II. A small number of units, called type IV, responded to both rising and falling phases of the modulation. Using perispike averaging, the AM receptive field, or 'level temporal receptive field' (LTRF), was displayed in a 'stimulus level versus perispike time' plane. The LTRF, particularly of the type II response, clearly revealed triggering features of the cell. The triggering features are consistent with the representation of the cell's response in a receptive space formed by the Cartesian axes of the velocity of amplitude modulation, the intensity of the sound, and the range of modulation. We therefore considered these stimulus parameters as the three basic determinants of the AM response in the auditory midbrain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)237-245
Number of pages9
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - 26 Sep 2000


  • Amplitude modulation
  • Inferior colliculus
  • Rat
  • Receptive space
  • Single neurons

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