The lateral superior olive (LSO) is the first nucleus in the ascending auditory pathway that encodes acoustic level information from both ears, the interaural level difference (ILD). This sensitivity is believed to result from the relative strengths of ipsilateral excitation and contralateral inhibition. The study reported here simulated sound-evoked responses of LSO chopper units with a focus on the role of the heterogeneity in membrane afterhyperpolarization (AHP) channels on spike interval statistics and on ILD encoding. A relatively simplified cell model was used so that the effects of interest could be isolated. Specifically, the amplitude and time constant of the AHP conductance within a leaky integrate-and-fire (LIF) cell model were studied. This extends the work of others who used a more physiologically detailed model. Results show that differences in these two parameters lead to both the distinctive chopper response patterns and to the level-dependent interval statistics as observed in vivo. In general, diverse AHP characteristics enable an enhanced contrast across population responses with respect to rate gain and temporal correlations. This membrane heterogeneity provides an internal, cell-specific dimension for the neural representation of stimulus information, allowing sensitivity to ILDs of dynamic stimuli.
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