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J Comp Neurol. 1998 Aug 10;397(4):532-48.

Single unit recordings in the auditory nerve of congenitally deaf white cats: morphological correlates in the cochlea and cochlear nucleus.

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1
Center for Hearing Sciences, Department Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland 21205, USA. dryugo@bme.jhu.edu

Abstract

It is well known that experimentally induced cochlear damage produces structural, physiological, and biochemical alterations in neurons of the cochlear nucleus. In contrast, much less is known with respect to the naturally occurring cochlear pathology presented by congenital deafness. The present study attempts to relate organ of Corti structure and auditory nerve activity to the morphology of primary synaptic endings in the cochlear nucleus of congenitally deaf white cats. Our observations reveal that the amount of sound-evoked spike activity in auditory nerve fibers influences terminal morphology and synaptic structure in the anteroventral cochlear nucleus. Some white cats had no hearing. They exhibited severely reduced spontaneous activity and no sound-evoked activity in auditory nerve fibers. They had no recognizable organ of Corti, presented >90% loss of spiral ganglion cells, and displayed marked structural abnormalities of endbulbs of Held and their synapses. Other white cats had partial hearing and possessed auditory nerve fibers with a wide range of spontaneous activity but elevated sound-evoked thresholds (60-70 dB SPL). They also exhibited obvious abnormalities in the tectorial membrane, supporting cells, and Reissner's membrane throughout the cochlear duct and had complete inner and outer hair cell loss in the base. The spatial distribution of spiral ganglion cell loss correlated with the pattern of hair cell loss. Primary neurons of hearing-impaired cats displayed structural abnormalities of their endbulbs and synapses in the cochlear nucleus which were intermediate in form compared to normal and totally deaf cats. Changes in endbulb structure appear to correspond to relative levels of deafness. These data suggest that endbulb structure is significantly influenced by sound-evoked auditory nerve activity.

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