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J Neurophysiol. 2005 Aug;94(2):1028-36. Epub 2005 Apr 13.

Development of sound localization mechanisms in the mongolian gerbil is shaped by early acoustic experience.

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Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology, D-82152 Martinsried, Germany

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  • J Neurophysiol. 2005 Nov;94(5):3658.


Sound localization is one of the most important tasks performed by the auditory system. Differences in the arrival time of sound at the two ears are the main cue to localize low-frequency sound in the azimuth. In the mammalian brain, such interaural time differences (ITDs) are encoded in the auditory brain stem; first by the medial superior olive (MSO) and then transferred to higher centers, such as the dorsal nucleus of the lateral lemniscus (DNLL), a brain stem nucleus that gets a direct input from the MSO. Here we demonstrate for the first time that ITD sensitivity in gerbils undergoes a developmental maturation after hearing onset. We further show that this development can be disrupted by altering the animal's acoustic experience during a critical period. In animals that had been exposed to omnidirectional white noise during a restricted time period right after hearing onset, ITD tuning did not develop normally. Instead, it was similar to that of juvenile animals 3 days after hearing onset, with the ITD functions not adjusted to the physiological range. Animals that had been exposed to omnidirectional noise as adults did not show equivalent abnormal ITD tuning. The development presented here is in contrast to that of the development of neuronal representation of ITDs in the midbrain of barn owls and interaural intensity differences in ferrets, where the representations are adjusted by an interaction of auditory and visual inputs. The development of ITD tuning presented here most likely depends on normal acoustic experience and may be related to the maturation of inhibitory inputs to the ITD detector itself.

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