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J Neurosci. 2012 Feb 1;32(5):1660-71. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4608-11.2012.

Noise overexposure alters long-term somatosensory-auditory processing in the dorsal cochlear nucleus--possible basis for tinnitus-related hyperactivity?

Author information

  • 1Kresge Hearing Research Institute, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109, USA.

Abstract

The dorsal cochlear nucleus (DCN) is the first neural site of bimodal auditory-somatosensory integration. Previous studies have shown that stimulation of somatosensory pathways results in immediate suppression or enhancement of subsequent acoustically evoked discharges. In the unimpaired auditory system suppression predominates. However, damage to the auditory input pathway leads to enhancement of excitatory somatosensory inputs to the cochlear nucleus, changing their effects on DCN neurons (Shore et al., 2008; Zeng et al., 2009). Given the well described connection between the somatosensory system and tinnitus in patients we sought to determine whether plastic changes in long-lasting bimodal somatosensory-auditory processing accompany tinnitus. Here we demonstrate for the first time in vivo long-term effects of somatosensory inputs on acoustically evoked discharges of DCN neurons in guinea pigs. The effects of trigeminal nucleus stimulation are compared between normal-hearing animals and animals overexposed with narrow band noise and behaviorally tested for tinnitus. The noise exposure resulted in a temporary threshold shift in auditory brainstem responses but a persistent increase in spontaneous and sound-evoked DCN unit firing rates and increased steepness of rate-level functions. Rate increases were especially prominent in buildup units. The long-term somatosensory enhancement of sound-evoked responses was strengthened while suppressive effects diminished in noise-exposed animals, especially those that developed tinnitus. Damage to the auditory nerve is postulated to trigger compensatory long-term synaptic plasticity of somatosensory inputs that might be an important underlying mechanism for tinnitus generation.

PMID:
22302808
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC3567464
Free PMC Article

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