Although the sensitivity to interaural intensity differences (IIDs) of neurons receiving excitatory - inhibitory binaural input (EI neurons) has been examined in numerous studies, the mechanisms underlying this sensitivity remain unclear. According to the 'latency hypothesis', neuronal sensitivity to IIDs reflects sensitivity to differences in the timing of ipsilateral and contralateral inputs that are produced as a consequence of the effects of intensity upon latency. If the latency hypothesis is correct, a neuron's responses over any given IID range should be predicted by its responses to the interaural time differences (ITDs) that are 'equivalent' to the IIDs tested, in the sense that they produce the same changes in the relative timing of inputs. This prediction from the latency hypothesis was examined by determining the sensitivity of EI neurons in the inferior colliculus of anesthetized rats to IIDs and ITDs in click stimuli, under conditions that allowed 'equivalent' ITDs to be estimated. In approximately 10% of the 41 neurons tested, the IID-sensitivity function was a perfect or near-perfect match to the equivalent-ITD function, indicating that IID sensitivity could be entirely accounted for in terms of sensitivity to intensity-produced neural time differences, as asserted by the latency hypothesis. For the majority of neurons, however, sensitivity to equivalent ITDs accounted only partially for the characteristics of the IID-sensitivity function; other features of the function in these cases appeared to reflect the operation of an additional factor, most probably the relative magnitude of the inputs from the two ears. Although the conclusions are qualified by the fact that one of the assumptions on which the estimation of equivalent ITDs was based was probably not satisfied for some neurons, the results suggest that intensity-produced changes in both the magnitude and the timing of excitatory and inhibitory inputs shape the IID sensitivity of most EI neurons.
- Binaural processing
- Excitatory - inhibitory neurons
- Inferior colliculus
- Interaural intensity difference
- Interaural time difference