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J Neurophysiol. 2001 Mar;85(3):1078-87.

Plasticity of bat's central auditory system evoked by focal electric stimulation of auditory and/or somatosensory cortices.

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Department of Biology, Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri 63130, USA.


Recent findings indicate that the corticofugal system would play an important role in cortical plasticity as well as collicular plasticity. To understand the role of the corticofugal system in plasticity, therefore, we studied the amount and the time course of plasticity in the inferior colliculus (IC) and auditory cortex (AC) evoked by focal electrical stimulation of the AC and also the effect of electrical stimulation of the somatosensory cortex on the plasticity evoked by the stimulation of the AC. In adult big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus), we made the following major findings. 1) Electric stimulation of the AC evokes best frequency (BF) shifts, i.e., shifts in frequency-response curves of collicular and cortical neurons. These BF shifts start to occur within 2 min, reach a maximum (or plateau) at 30 min, and then recover approximately 180 min after a 30-min-long stimulus session. When the stimulus session is lengthened from 30 to 90 min, the plateau lasts approximately 60 min, but BF shifts recover approximately 180 min after the session. 2) The electric stimulation of the somatosensory cortex delivered immediately after that of the AC, as in fear conditioning, evokes a dramatic lengthening of the recovery period of the cortical BF shifts but not that of the collicular BF shift. The electric stimulation of the somatosensory cortex delivered before that of the AC, as in backward conditioning, has no effect on the collicular and cortical BF shifts. 3) Electric stimulation of the AC evokes BF shifts not only in the ipsilateral IC and AC but also in the contralateral IC and AC. BF shifts are smaller in amount and shorter in recovery time for contralateral collicular and cortical neurons than for ipsilateral ones. Our findings support the hypothesis that the AC and the corticofugal system have an intrinsic mechanism for reorganization of the IC and AC, that the reorganization is highly specific to a value of an acoustic parameter (frequency), and that the reorganization is augmented by excitation of nonauditory sensory cortex that makes the acoustic stimulus behaviorally relevant to the animal through associative learning.

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