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J Neurophysiol. 1997 Dec;78(6):3095-106.

Conditioning-related protection from acoustic injury: effects of chronic deefferentation and sham surgery.

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Department of Otology and Laryngology, Harvard Medical School, Boston 02115, USA.


The inner ear can be made less vulnerable to acoustic injury by a "conditioning" treatment involving exposure to a moderate-level acoustic stimulus before the acoustic overexposure. The present study was designed to explore the role of the olivocochlear (OC) system in this "protection." Guinea pigs were divided into a number of groups: some (trauma-only) were exposed to a traumatic noise for 4 h at 109 dB SPL; others (condition/trauma) were conditioned by daily exposure to the same noise at 85 dB SPL before the traumatic exposure. In OC-intact animals, the condition/trauma group showed significantly less permanent threshold shift (PTS) than the trauma-only group as measured via compound action potentials and distortion-product otoacoustic emissions (DPOAEs). Other animals with identical noise-exposure regimens underwent deefferentation surgery before the start of conditioning: the OC bundle (OCB) was cut in the brain stem, either at the midline (cutting the crossed OCB to both ears) or at the sulcus limitans (cutting all OC fibers to 1 side). Lesion success was quantified by measuring OC fascicles to the outer hair cell region in each ear. The results from the surgical groups showed that total loss of the OCB significantly increased the noise-induced PTS, whereas loss of the COCB only did not; that the conditioning exposure in deefferented animals increased, rather than decreased, the PTS from the traumatic exposure; and that animals undergoing sham surgery (brain stem cuts that failed to transect the OCB) appeared protected whether or not they received the conditioning noise exposure. The latter result suggests that conditioning-related protection may arise from a generalized stress response, which can be elicited by noise exposure, brain surgery, or a variety of other means. The former results make an OC role in the conditioning process, per se, difficult to assess, given the large effects of OC activity on general acoustic vulnerability.

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