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Neuron. 2012 Aug 23;75(4):688-99. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2012.05.035.

Visual input modulates audiomotor function via hypothalamic dopaminergic neurons through a cooperative mechanism.

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Institute of Neuroscience and State Key Laboratory of Neuroscience, Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shanghai 200031, China.


Visual cues often modulate auditory signal processing, leading to improved sound detection. However, the synaptic and circuit mechanism underlying this cross-modal modulation remains poorly understood. Using larval zebrafish, we first established a cross-modal behavioral paradigm in which a preceding flash enhances sound-evoked escape behavior, which is known to be executed through auditory afferents (VIII(th) nerves) and command-like neurons (Mauthner cells). In vivo recording revealed that the visual enhancement of auditory escape is achieved by increasing sound-evoked Mauthner cell responses. This increase in Mauthner cell responses is accounted for by the increase in the signal-to-noise ratio of sound-evoked VIII(th) nerve spiking and efficacy of VIII(th) nerve-Mauthner cell synapses. Furthermore, the visual enhancement of Mauthner cell response and escape behavior requires light-responsive dopaminergic neurons in the caudal hypothalamus and D1 dopamine receptor activation. Our findings illustrate a cooperative neural mechanism for visual modulation of audiomotor processing that involves dopaminergic neuromodulation.

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