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Hear Res. 2009 Jul;253(1-2):52-9. doi: 10.1016/j.heares.2009.03.002. Epub 2009 Mar 19.

Acute high-intensity sound exposure alters responses of place cells in hippocampus.

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  • 1School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, The University of Texas at Dallas, 800 W. Campbell Rd, Richardson, Dallas, TX 75080, USA.


Overstimulation is known to activate neural plasticity in the auditory nervous system causing changes in function and re-organization. It has been shown earlier that overstimulation using high-intensity noise or tones can induce signs of tinnitus. Here we show in studies in rats that overstimulation causes changes in the way place cells of the hippocampus respond as rats search for rewards in a spatial maze. In familiar environments, a subset of hippocampal pyramidal neurons, known as place cells, respond when the animal moves through specific locations but are relatively silent in others. This place-field activity (i.e. location-specific firing) is stable in a fixed environment. The present study shows that activation of neural plasticity through overstimulation by sound can alter the response of these place cells. Rats implanted with chronic drivable dorsal hippocampal tetrodes (four microelectrodes) were assessed for stable single-unit place-field responses that were extracted from multiunit responses using NeuroExplorer computer spike-sorting software. Rats then underwent either 30 min exposure to a 4 kHz tone at 104 dB SPL or a control period in the same sound chamber. The place-field activity was significantly altered after sound exposure showing that plastic changes induced by overstimulation are not limited to the auditory nervous system but extend to other parts of the CNS, in this case to the hippocampus, a brain region often studied in the context of plasticity.

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