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Neural Plast. 2012;2012:601591. doi: 10.1155/2012/601591. Epub 2012 Jul 19.

Early hearing-impairment results in crossmodal reorganization of ferret core auditory cortex.

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  • 1Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, Richmond, VA 23298, USA.


Numerous investigations of cortical crossmodal plasticity, most often in congenital or early-deaf subjects, have indicated that secondary auditory cortical areas reorganize to exhibit visual responsiveness while the core auditory regions are largely spared. However, a recent study of adult-deafened ferrets demonstrated that core auditory cortex was reorganized by the somatosensory modality. Because adult animals have matured beyond their critical period of sensory development and plasticity, it was not known if adult-deafening and early-deafening would generate the same crossmodal results. The present study used young, ototoxically-lesioned ferrets (n = 3) that, after maturation (avg. = 173 days old), showed significant hearing deficits (avg. threshold = 72 dB SPL). Recordings from single-units (n = 132) in core auditory cortex showed that 72% were activated by somatosensory stimulation (compared to 1% in hearing controls). In addition, tracer injection into early hearing-impaired core auditory cortex labeled essentially the same auditory cortical and thalamic projection sources as seen for injections in the hearing controls, indicating that the functional reorganization was not the result of new or latent projections to the cortex. These data, along with similar observations from adult-deafened and adult hearing-impaired animals, support the recently proposed brainstem theory for crossmodal plasticity induced by hearing loss.

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