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J Neurophysiol. 2011 Mar;105(3):1063-70. doi: 10.1152/jn.00807.2010. Epub 2010 Dec 22.

Somatosensory context alters auditory responses in the cochlear nucleus.

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  • 1Department of Biology, University of Maryland, 1116 Biosciences Res. Bldg., College Park, MD 20742, USA.


The cochlear nucleus, the first central auditory structure, performs initial stimulus processing and segregation of information into parallel ascending pathways. It also receives nonauditory inputs. Here we show in vivo that responses of dorsal cochlear nucleus (DCN) principal neurons to sounds can change significantly depending on the presence or absence of inputs from the somatosensory dorsal column nucleus occurring before the onset of auditory stimuli. The effects range from short-term suppression of spikes lasting a few milliseconds at the onset of the stimulus to long-term increases or decreases in spike rate that last throughout the duration of an acoustic stimulus (up to several hundred milliseconds). The long-term effect requires only a single electrical stimulus pulse to initiate and seems to be similar to persistent activity reported in other parts of the brain. Among the DCN inhibitory interneurons, only the cartwheel cells show a long-term rate decrease that could account for the rate increases (but not the decreases) of DCN principal cells. Thus even at the earliest stages of auditory processing, the represented information is dependent on nonauditory context, in this case somatosensory events.

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