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Distinct Neural Properties in the Low-Frequency Region of the Chicken Cochlear Nucleus Magnocellularis

Wang, X;Hong, H;Brown, DH;Sanchez, JT;Wang, Y;

Topography in the avian cochlear nucleus magnocellularis (NM) is represented as gradually increasing characteristic frequency (CF) along the caudolateral-to-rostromedial axis. In this study, we characterized the organization and cell biophysics of the caudolateral NM (NMc) in chickens (Gallus gallus). Examination of cellular and dendritic architecture first revealed that NMc contains small neurons and extensive dendritic processes, in contrast to adendritic, large neurons located more rostromedially. Individual dye-filling study further demonstrated that NMc is divided into two subregions, with NMc2 neurons having larger and more complex dendritic fields than NMc1. Axonal tract tracing studies confirmed that NMc1 and NMc2 neurons receive afferent inputs from the auditory nerve and the superior olivary nucleus, similar to the adendritic NM. However, the auditory axons synapse with NMc neurons via small bouton-like terminals, unlike the large end bulb synapses on adendritic NM neurons. Immunocytochemistry demonstrated that most NMc2 neurons express cholecystokinin but not calretinin, distinct from NMc1 and adendritic NM neurons that are cholecystokinin negative and mostly calretinin positive. Finally, whole-cell current clamp recordings revealed that NMc neurons require significantly lower threshold current for action potential generation than adendritic NM neurons. Moreover, in contrast to adendritic NM neurons that generate a single-onset action potential, NMc neurons generate multiple action potentials to suprathreshold sustained depolarization. Taken together, our data indicate that NMc contains multiple neuron types that are structurally, connectively, molecularly, and physiologically different from traditionally defined NM neurons, emphasizing specialized neural properties for processing low-frequency sounds.