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J Exp Neurosci. 2011 Oct 25;2011(5):45-60.

Organization of Estrogen-Associated Circuits in the Mouse Primary Auditory Cortex.

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1
Departments of Physiology, Geriatric Medicine and ROCA, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma City, OK, USA.

Abstract

Sex steroid hormones influence the perceptual processing of sensory signals in vertebrates. In particular, decades of research have shown that circulating levels of estrogen correlate with hearing function. The mechanisms and sites of action supporting this sensory-neuroendocrine modulation, however, remain unknown. Here we combined a molecular cloning strategy, fluorescence in-situ hybridization and unbiased quantification methods to show that estrogen-producing and -sensitive neurons heavily populate the adult mouse primary auditory cortex (AI). We also show that auditory experience in freely-behaving animals engages estrogen-producing and -sensitive neurons in AI. These estrogen-associated networks are greatly stable, and do not quantitatively change as a result of acute episodes of sensory experience. We further demonstrate the neurochemical identity of estrogen-producing and estrogen-sensitive neurons in AI and show that these cell populations are phenotypically distinct. Our findings provide the first direct demonstration that estrogen-associated circuits are highly prevalent and engaged by sensory experience in the mouse auditory cortex, and suggest that previous correlations between estrogen levels and hearing function may be related to brain-generated hormone production. Finally, our findings suggest that estrogenic modulation may be a central component of the operational framework of central auditory networks.

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