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Gollisch, Tim; Herz, Andreas V. M. (2004): Input-driven components of spike-frequency adaptation can be unmasked in vivo. In: The journal of neuroscience, Vol. 24, No. 34: pp. 7435-7444




Spike-frequency adaptation affects the response characteristics of many sensory neurons, and different biophysical processes contribute to this phenomenon. Many cellular mechanisms underlying adaptation are triggered by the spike output of the neuron in a feedback manner (e.g., specific potassium currents that are primarily activated by the spiking activity). In contrast, other components of adaptation may be caused by, in a feedforward way, the sensory or synaptic input, which the neuron receives. Examples include viscoelasticity of mechanoreceptors, transducer adaptation in hair cells, and short-term synaptic depression. For a functional characterization of spike-frequency adaptation, it is essential to understand the dependence of adaptation on the input and output of the neuron. Here, we demonstrate how an input-driven component of adaptation can be uncovered in vivo from recordings of spike trains in an insect auditory receptor neuron, even if the total adaptation is dominated by output-driven components. Our method is based on the identification of different inputs that yield the same output and sudden switches between these inputs. In particular, we determined for different sound frequencies those intensities that are required to yield a predefined steady-state firing rate of the neuron. We then found that switching between these sound frequencies causes transient deviations of the firing rate. These firing-rate deflections are evidence of input-driven adaptation and can be used to quantify how this adaptation component affects the neural activity. Based on previous knowledge of the processes in auditory transduction, we conclude that for the investigated auditory receptor neurons, this adaptation phenomenon is of mechanical origin.