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A4 - Impact of hair cell synaptic coding on auditory processing

Tobias Moser and Fred Wolf

Due to experimental and theoretical progress during the past several years, the ribbon synapse of cochlear inner hair cells has become a very promising model system for analyzing the impact that the precise mechanisms of synaptic transmitter release have on the coding and signal processing strategies of the central nervous system. While previously assumptions on the coding of acoustical information at this first synapse in the auditory pathway have been mostly inferred from recordings of auditory nerve fibers, direct biophysical experiments have now determined major synaptic parameters and have led us to hypothesize qualitative models of the active zone topography and the release process (Moser and Beutner 2000, Beutner et al. 2001, Glowatzki and Fuchs 2002, Brandt et al. 2003, Fuchs et al. 2003, Khimich et al. 2004). Theoretically, recent studies by Heil and coworkers of sound representation at higher stages of the auditory pathway suggested that hair cell synapses are a major signal-processing unit in the auditory pathway, determining key aspects of auditory cortical population codes in response to time dependent stimuli (see Heil and Neubauer 2003).

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