A diversity of synaptic filters are created by temporal summation of excitation and inhibition

Andrew A. George, Ariel M. Lyons-Warren, Xiaofeng Ma, Bruce A. Carlson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Temporal filtering is a fundamental operation of nervous systems. In peripheral sensory systems, the temporal pattern of spiking activity can encode various stimulus qualities, and temporal filtering allows postsynaptic neurons to detect behaviorally relevant stimulus features from these spike trains. Intrinsic excitability, short-term synaptic plasticity, and voltage-dependent dendritic conductances have all been identified as mechanisms that can establish temporal filtering behavior in single neurons. Here we show that synaptic integration of temporally summating excitation and inhibition can establish diverse temporal filters of presynaptic input. Mormyrid electric fish communicate by varying the intervals between electric organ discharges. The timing of each discharge is coded by peripheral receptors into precisely timed spikes. Within the midbrain posterior exterolateral nucleus, temporal filtering by individual neurons results in selective responses to a particular range of presynaptic interspike intervals. These neurons are diverse in their temporal filtering properties, reflecting the wide range of intervals that must be detected during natural communication behavior. By manipulating presynaptic spike timing with high temporal resolution, we demonstrate that tuning to behaviorally relevant patterns of presynaptic input is similar in vivo and in vitro.We reveal that GABAergic inhibition plays a critical role in establishing different temporal filtering properties. Further, our results demonstrate that temporal summation of excitation and inhibition establishes selective responses to high and low rates of synaptic input, respectively. Simple models of synaptic integration reveal that variation in these two competing influences provides a basic mechanism for generating diverse temporal filters of synaptic input.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14721-14734
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number41
StatePublished - Oct 12 2011


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