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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2007 Feb 27;104(9):3550-5. Epub 2007 Feb 20.

Developmental hearing loss eliminates long-term potentiation in the auditory cortex.

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Center for Neural Science and Department of Biology, New York University, New York, NY 10003, USA.


Severe hearing loss during early development is associated with deficits in speech and language acquisition. Although functional studies have shown a deafness-induced alteration of synaptic strength, it is not known whether long-term synaptic plasticity depends on auditory experience. In this study, sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) was induced surgically in developing gerbils at postnatal day 10, and excitatory synaptic plasticity was examined subsequently in a brain slice preparation that preserves the thalamorecipient auditory cortex. Extracellular stimuli were applied at layer 6 (L6), whereas evoked excitatory synaptic potentials (EPSPs) were recorded from L5 neurons by using a whole-cell current clamp configuration. In control neurons, the conditioning stimulation of L6 significantly altered EPSP amplitude for at least 1 h. Approximately half of neurons displayed long-term potentiation (LTP), whereas the other half displayed long-term depression (LTD). In contrast, SNHL neurons displayed only LTD after the conditioning stimulation of L6. Finally, the vast majority of neurons recorded from control prehearing animals (postnatal days 9-11) displayed LTD after L6 stimulation. Thus, normal auditory experience may be essential for the maturation of synaptic plasticity mechanisms.

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