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Exp Gerontol. 1995 May-Aug;30(3-4):349-60.

Central auditory aging: GABA changes in the inferior colliculus.

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Department of Pharmacology, Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, Springfield 62702, USA.


Age-related hearing loss (presbycusis) is a complex state that reflects pathologic changes along the entire auditory neuraxis. Loss of speech understanding, decreased ability to localize sounds, and a decreased ability to detect and extract signals in noise are characteristic problems encountered by the elderly. Central (neural) presbycusis frequently results in a dramatic loss in speech understanding without a parallel change in pure-tone thresholds. In spite of evidence that suggests these deficits cannot be fully explained by peripheral changes alone, few studies have examined the neurochemical basis of central auditory dysfunction in aging. Age-related alterations in neural circuits involved in the processing of acoustic information could reflect changes in the synthesis, degradation, uptake, release, and receptor sensitivity of neurotransmitters, perhaps secondary to cell loss and/or progressive deafferentation. A series of studies designed to test this hypothesis has examined aging in the central auditory system of the F344 rate. Age-related changes associated with GABA neurotransmitter function in an important auditory midbrain structure, the inferior colliculus, have been investigated. These studies found: (1) decreased numbers of GABA immunoreactive neurons; (2) decreased basal levels (concentrations) of GABA; (3) decreased GABA release; (4) decreased glutamic acid decarboxylase activity; (5) decreased GABAB receptor binding; (6) decreased numbers of presynaptic terminals; and (7) subtle GABAA receptor binding changes. Collectively, these age-related changes suggest altered GABA neurotransmitter function in the IC. Identification of specific neurotransmitter changes in structures important in speech processing could eventually lead to the development of pharmacotherapy for selective types of age-related hearing loss.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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