Masking effects of a preceding stimulus on the detection or perception of a signal have been found in several sensory systems in mammals, including humans and rodents. In the auditory system, it has been hypothesized that a central "OFF-inhibitory" mechanism, which is generated by neurons that respond after a sound is terminated, may contribute to the observed psychophysics. The present study constructed a systems model for the inferior colliculus that includes major ascending monaural and binaural auditory pathways. The fundamental characteristics of several neuron types along the pathways were captured by Hodgkin-Huxley models with specific membrane and synaptic properties. OFF responses were reproduced with a model of the superior paraolivary nucleus containing a hyperpolarization-activated h current and a T-type calcium current. When the gap between the end of the masker and the onset of the signal was large, e.g., > 5 ms, OFF inhibition generated strong suppressive effects on the signal response. For smaller gaps, an additional inhibitory source, which was modeled as ON inhibition from the contralateral dorsal nucleus of the lateral lemniscus, showed the potential of explaining the psychophysics. Meanwhile, the effect of a forward masker on the binaural sensitivity to a low-frequency signal was examined, which was consistent with previous psychophysical findings related to sound localization.
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