The reduction of neuronal responses to repeated stimulus presentation occurs in many sensory neurons, also in the inferior colliculus of birds. Response adaptation plays a role in perceptual auditory phenomena like the precedence effect. The cellular mechanisms that cause response adaptation are not well described. Adaptation must be explicable by changes in the activity of input neurons, short-term synaptic plasticity of the incoming connections, excitability changes of the neuron under consideration or influences of inhibitory or modulatory network connections. Using whole-cell recordings in acute brain slices of the embryonic chicken brain we wanted to understand the intrinsic and synaptic contributions to adaptation in the core of the central nucleus of the inferior colliculus. We described two neuron types in the chicken ICCc based on their action potential firing patterns: Phasic/onset neurons showed strong intrinsic adaptation but recovered more rapidly. Tonic/sustained firing neurons had weaker adaptation but often had additional slow components of recovery from adaptation. Chicken ICCc neurons received mostly mixed AMPA- and NMDA-type glutamatergic synaptic inputs. In the majority of ICCc neurons the input synapses underwent short-term depression. With a simulation of the putative population output activity of the chicken ICCc we showed that the different adaptation profiles of the neuron classes could shift the emphasize of stimulus encoding from transients at long intervals to ongoing parts at short intervals. Thus we report here that description of biophysical and synaptic properties can help to explain adaptive phenomena in central auditory neurons.

Malinowski S, Wolf J, Kuenzel T (2019) Intrinsic and Synaptic Dynamics Contribute to Adaptation in the Core of the Avian Central Nucleus of the Inferior Colliculus. Frontiers in Neural Circuits 13.