Inhibitory Neurons in the Auditory Brainstem

Part of the Springer Handbook of Auditory Research book series (SHAR, volume 41)


Most chapters in this volume address the function of the major excitatory synapses in the lower auditory pathways, with respect to coincidence detection, the ion channels that determine neuronal firing, and the control of excitation through modulation and plasticity. However, none of these processes can be understood at a functional level without considering synaptic inhibition. Indeed, inhibition through GABAergic and glycinergic interneurons is likely to play an essential role in controlling the excitation at every level of central auditory processing. The present chapter examines inhibitory interneurons in several contexts in order to illustrate the diversity of their cellular mechanisms and circuit-level function, with a focus on the auditory brainstem. The term “interneuron” is used loosely; in fact, inhibitory cells are so fundamental to auditory processing that individual neurons may act as both proper interneurons (intrinsic neurons, i.e., those inhibiting within a local circuit) and inhibitory projection neurons (inhibiting across brainstem nuclei or regions). After introducing the study of interneurons and their general function, the chapter examines two prominent examples from the cochlear nucleus and superior olivary complex, rather than provide an exhaustive summary of all known auditory interneurons. Then four aspects of interneuron physiology are explored: the control of the reversal potential for Cl, the gating properties of the receptor-channel complex, the role of corelease of the transmitters GABA and glycine from interneuronal synapses; and, lastly, mechanisms for prolonging the action of the transmitter.


Cochlear Nucleus Inhibitory Neuron Principal Cell Glycine Receptor Good Frequency 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



I wish to thank Mr. Dan Yaeger and Dr. Donata Oertel for comments on the manuscript. Dr. Gareth Price provided data for Fig. 7.5. Support was provided by the NIH (grants NS028901 and DC004450).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Vollum Institute, Oregon Hearing Research CenterOregon Health and Science UniversityPortlandUSA

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