Neural response properties that typify primary sensory afferents are critical to fully appreciate because they establish and, ultimately represent, the fundamental coding design used for higher-level processing. Studies illuminating the center-surround receptive fields of retinal ganglion cells, for example, were ground-breaking because they determined the foundation of visual form detection. For the auditory system, a basic organizing principle of the spiral ganglion afferents is their extensive electrophysiological heterogeneity establishing diverse intrinsic firing properties in neurons throughout the spiral ganglion. Moreover, these neurons display an impressively large array of neurotransmitter receptor types that are responsive to efferent feedback. Thus, electrophysiological diversity and its neuromodulation are a fundamental encoding mechanism contributed by the primary afferents in the auditory system. To place these features into context, we evaluated the effects of hyperpolarization and cAMP on threshold level as indicators of overall afferent responsiveness in CBA/CaJ mice of either sex. Hyperpolarization modified threshold gradients such that distinct voltage protocols could shift the relationship between sensitivity and stimulus input to reshape resolution. This resulted in an “accordion effect” that appeared to stretch, compress, or maintain responsivity across the gradient of afferent thresholds. cAMP targeted threshold and kinetic shifts to rapidly adapting neurons, thus revealing multiple cochleotopic properties that could potentially be independently regulated. These examples of dynamic heterogeneity in primary auditory afferents not only have the capacity to shift the range, sensitivity, and resolution, but to do so in a coordinated manner that appears to orchestrate changes with a seemingly unlimited repertoire.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Action potential
- Dynamic range
- Spiral ganglion