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J Neurophysiol. 2004 Sep;92(3):1445-63. Epub 2004 Apr 14.

Noradrenergic induction of selective plasticity in the frequency tuning of auditory cortex neurons.

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NAMC, UMR CNRS 8620, Bat. 446, Université Paris-Sud, 91405 Orsay Cedex, France.


Neuromodulators have long been viewed as permissive factors in experience-induced cortical plasticity, both during development and in adulthood. Experiments performed over the last two decades have reported the potency of acetylcholine to promote changes in functional properties of cortical cells in the auditory, visual, and somatosensory modality. In contrast, very few attempts were made with the monoaminergic systems. The present study evaluates how repeated presentation of brief pulses of noradrenaline (NA) concomitant with presentation of a particular tone frequency changes the frequency tuning curves of auditory cortex neurons determined at 20 dB above threshold. After 100 trials of NA-tone pairing, 28% of the cells (19/67) exhibited selective tuning modifications for the frequency paired with NA. All the selective effects were obtained when the paired frequency was within 1/4 of an octave from the initial best frequency. For these cells, selective decreases were prominent (15/19 cases), and these effects lasted > or =15 min after pairing. No selective effects were observed under various control conditions: tone alone (n = 10 cells), NA alone (n = 11 cells), pairing with ascorbic acid (n = 6 cells), or with GABA (n = 20 cells). Selective effects were observed when the NA-tone pairing was performed in the presence of propranolol (4/10 cells) but not when it was performed in the presence phentolamine (0/13 cells), suggesting that the effects were mediated by alpha receptors. These results indicate that brief increases in noradrenaline concentration can trigger selective modifications in the tuning curves of cortical neurons that, in most of the cases, go in opposite direction compared with those usually reported with acetylcholine.

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