Noise reduction of coincidence detector output by the inferior colliculus of the barn owl

G. Björn Christianson, José Luis Peña

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


A recurring theme in theoretical work is that integration over populations of similarly tuned neurons can reduce neural noise. However, there are relatively few demonstrations of an explicit noise reduction mechanism in a neural network. Here we demonstrate that the brainstem of the barn owl includes a stage of processing apparently devoted to increasing the signal-to-noise ratio in the encoding of the interaural time difference (ITD), one of two primary binaural cues used to compute the position of a sound source in space. In the barn owl, the ITD is processed in a dedicated neural pathway that terminates at the core of the inferior colliculus (ICcc). The actual locus of the computation of the ITD is before ICcc in the nucleus laminaris (NL), and ICcc receives no inputs carrying information that did not originate in NL. Unlike in NL, the rate-ITD functions of ICcc neurons require as little as a single stimulus presentation per ITD to show coherent ITD tuning. ICcc neurons also displayed a greater dynamic range with a maximal difference in ITD response rates approximately double that seen in NL. These results indicate that ICcc neurons perform a computation functionally analogous to averaging across a population of similarly tuned NL neurons.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5948-5954
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number22
StatePublished - 2006


  • Barn owl
  • Inferior colliculus
  • Interaural time difference
  • Nucleus laminaris
  • Pooling
  • Sound localization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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