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1.  A rapid form of activity-dependent recovery from short-term synaptic depression in the intensity pathway of the auditory brainstem 
Biological Cybernetics  2011;104(3):209-223.
Short-term synaptic plasticity acts as a time- and firing rate-dependent filter that mediates the transmission of information across synapses. In the avian auditory brainstem, specific forms of plasticity are expressed at different terminals of the same auditory nerve fibers and contribute to the divergence of acoustic timing and intensity information. To identify key differences in the plasticity properties, we made patch-clamp recordings from neurons in the cochlear nucleus responsible for intensity coding, nucleus angularis, and measured the time course of the recovery of excitatory postsynaptic currents following short-term synaptic depression. These synaptic responses showed a very rapid recovery, following a bi-exponential time course with a fast time constant of ~40 ms and a dependence on the presynaptic activity levels, resulting in a crossing over of the recovery trajectories following high-rate versus low-rate stimulation trains. We also show that the recorded recovery in the intensity pathway differs from similar recordings in the timing pathway, specifically the cochlear nucleus magnocellularis, in two ways: (1) a fast recovery that was not due to recovery from postsynaptic receptor desensitization and (2) a recovery trajectory that was characterized by a non-monotonic bump that may be due in part to facilitation mechanisms more prevalent in the intensity pathway. We tested whether a previously proposed model of synaptic transmission based on vesicle depletion and sequential steps of vesicle replenishment could account for the recovery responses, and found it was insufficient, suggesting an activity-dependent feedback mechanism is present. We propose that the rapid recovery following depression allows improved coding of natural auditory signals that often consist of sound bursts separated by short gaps.
doi:10.1007/s00422-011-0428-8
PMCID: PMC3257163  PMID: 21409439
Auditory nerve; Cochlear nucleus; Angularis; Magnocellularis; Short-term depression; Short-term facilitation; Vesicle cycling
2.  Connections of the Auditory Brainstem in a Songbird, Taeniopygia guttata. I. Projections of Nucleus Angularis and Nucleus Laminaris to the Auditory Torus 
The Journal of comparative neurology  2010;518(11):10.1002/cne.22334.
Auditory information is important for social and reproductive behaviors in birds generally, but is crucial for oscine species (songbirds), in particular because in these species auditory feedback ensures the learning and accurate maintenance of song. While there is considerable information on the auditory projections through the forebrain of songbirds, there is no information available for projections through the brainstem. At the latter levels the prevalent model of auditory processing in birds derives from an auditory specialist, the barn owl, which uses time and intensity parameters to compute the location of sounds in space, but whether the auditory brainstem of songbirds is similarly functionally organized is unknown. To examine the songbird auditory brainstem we charted the projections of the cochlear nuclei angularis (NA) and magnocellularis (NM) and the third-order nucleus laminaris (NL) in zebra finches using standard tract-tracing techniques. As in other avian species, the projections of NM were found to be confined to NL, and NL and NA provided the ascending projections. Here we report on differential projections of NA and NL to the torus semicircularis, known in birds as nucleus mesencephalicus lateralis, pars dorsalis (MLd), and in mammals as the central nucleus of the inferior colliculus (ICc). Unlike the case in nonsongbirds, the projections of NA and NL to MLd in the zebra finch showed substantial overlap, in agreement with the projections of the cochlear nuclei to the ICc in mammals. This organization could suggest that the “what” of auditory stimuli is as important as “where.”
doi:10.1002/cne.22334
PMCID: PMC3862038  PMID: 20394061
cochlear nuclei; central nucleus of inferior colliculus; MLd; zebra finch; avian
3.  Heterogeneous kinetics and pharmacology of synaptic inhibition in the chick auditory brainstem 
Identification of shared features between avian and mammalian auditory brainstem circuits has provided much insight into the mechanisms underlying early auditory processing. However, previous studies have highlighted an apparent difference in inhibitory systems; synaptic inhibition is thought to be slow and GABAergic in birds, but to have fast kinetics and be predominantly glycinergic in mammals. Using patch-clamp recordings in chick brainstem slices, we found this distinction is not exclusively true. Consistent with previous work, inhibitory postsynaptic currents (IPSCs) in nucleus magnocellularis (NM) were slow and mediated by GABAA receptors. However, IPSCs in nucleus laminaris (NL) and a subset of neurons in nucleus angularis (NA) had rapid time courses two to three-fold faster than those in NM. Further, we found IPSCs in NA were mediated by both glycine and GABAA receptors, demonstrating for the first time a role for fast glycinergic transmission in the avian auditory brainstem. Although NM, NL and NA have unique roles in auditory processing, the majority of inhibitory input to each nucleus arises from the same source, ipsilateral superior olivary nucleus (SON). Our results demonstrate remarkable diversity of inhibitory transmission among the avian brainstem nuclei and suggest differential glycine and GABAA receptor activity tailors inhibition to the specific functional roles of NM, NL, and NA despite common SON input. We additionally observed that glycinergic/GABAergic activity in NA was usually depolarizing and could elicit spiking activity in NA neurons. Because NA projects to SON, these excitatory effects may influence the recruitment of inhibitory activity in the brainstem nuclei.
doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0103-09.2009
PMCID: PMC2894706  PMID: 19641125
Auditory; GABA; Glycine; Patch Clamp; Inhibition; Synapse
4.  A Role for Short-Term Synaptic Facilitation and Depression in the Processing of Intensity Information in the Auditory Brain Stem 
Journal of Neurophysiology  2007;97(4):2863-2874.
The nature of the synaptic connection from the auditory nerve onto the cochlear nucleus neurons has a profound impact on how sound information is transmitted. Short-term synaptic plasticity, by dynamically modulating synaptic strength, filters information contained in the firing patterns. In the sound-localization circuits of the brain stem, the synapses of the timing pathway are characterized by strong short-term depression. We investigated the short-term synaptic plasticity of the inputs to the bird’s cochlear nucleus angularis (NA), which encodes intensity information, by using chick embryonic brain slices and trains of electrical stimulation. These excitatory inputs expressed a mixture of short-term facilitation and depression, unlike those in the timing nuclei that only depressed. Facilitation and depression at NA synapses were balanced such that postsynaptic response amplitude was often maintained throughout the train at high firing rates (>100 Hz). The steady-state input rate relationship of the balanced synapses linearly conveyed rate information and therefore transmits intensity information encoded as a rate code in the nerve. A quantitative model of synaptic transmission could account for the plasticity by including facilitation of release (with a time constant of ~40 ms), and a two-step recovery from depression (with one slow time constant of ~8 s, and one fast time constant of ~20 ms). A simulation using the model fit to NA synapses and auditory nerve spike trains from recordings in vivo confirmed that these synapses can convey intensity information contained in natural train inputs.
doi:10.1152/jn.01030.2006
PMCID: PMC3268177  PMID: 17251365
5.  Three subdivisions of the auditory midbrain in chicks (Gallus gallus) identified by their afferent and commissural projections 
The Journal of comparative neurology  2010;518(8):1199-1219.
The auditory midbrain is a site of convergence of multiple auditory channels from the brainstem. In birds, two separate ascending channels have been identified, through which time and intensity information is sent to nucleus mesencephalicus lateralis, pars dorsalis (MLd), the homologue of the central nucleus of mammalian inferior colliculus. Using in vivo anterograde and retrograde tracing techniques, the current study provides two lines of anatomical evidence supporting the presence of a third ascending channel to the chick MLd. First, three non-overlapping zones of MLd receive inputs from three distinct cell groups in the caudodorsal brainstem. The projections from nucleus angularis (NA) and nucleus laminaris (NL) are predominately contralateral and may correspond to the time and intensity channels. A rostromedial portion of MLd receives bilateral projections mainly from the Regio Intermedius, an interposed region of cells lying at a caudal level between NL and NA, as well as scattered neurons embedded in 8th nerve tract, and probably a very ventral region of NA. Second, the bilateral zones of MLd on two sides of the brain are reciprocally connected and do not interact with other zones of MLd via commissural connections. In contrast, the NL-recipient zone projects contralaterally upon the NA-recipient zone. The structural separation of the third pathway from the NA and NL projections suggests a third information-processing channel, in parallel with the time and intensity channels. Neurons in the third channel appear to process very low frequency information including infrasound, probably utilizing different mechanisms than that underlying higher frequency processing.
doi:10.1002/cne.22269
PMCID: PMC2878180  PMID: 20148439
cochlear nuclei; MLd; inferior colliculus; parallel organization; infrasound
6.  GABAergic inhibition sharpens the frequency tuning and enhances phase locking in chicken nucleus magnocellularis neurons 
The Journal of Neuroscience  2010;30(36):12075-12083.
GABAergic modulation of activity in avian cochlear nucleus neurons has been studied extensively in vitro. However, how this modulation actually influences processing in vivo is not known. We investigated responses of chicken nucleus magnocellularis (NM) neurons to sound while pharmacologically manipulating the inhibitory input from the superior olivary nucleus (SON). SON receives excitatory inputs from nucleus angularis (NA) and nucleus laminaris (NL), and provides GABAergic inputs to NM, NA, NL, and putatively to the contralateral SON. Results from single unit extracellular recordings from 2–4 wks posthatch chickens show that firing rates of auditory nerve fibers (ANFs) increased monotonically with sound intensity, while that of NM neurons saturated or even decreased at moderate or loud sound levels. Blocking GABAergic input with local application of TTX into the SON induced an increase in firing rate of ipsilateral NM while that of the contralateral NM decreased at high sound levels. Moreover, local application of bicuculline to NM also increased the firing rate of NM neurons at high sound levels, reduced phase-locking, and broadened the frequency tuning properties of NM neurons. Following application of DNQX, clear evidence of inhibition was observed. Furthermore, the inhibition was tuned to a broader frequency range than the excitatory response areas. We conclude that GABAergic inhibition from SON has at least three physiological influences on the activity of NM neurons: it regulates the firing activity of NM units in a sound-level dependent manner; it improves phase selectivity; and it sharpens frequency tuning of NM neuronal responses.
doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1484-10.2010
PMCID: PMC3376706  PMID: 20826670
Superior olivary nucleus; Cochlear nucleus; Bicuculline; GABA; Auditory; In vivo
7.  Neuronal specializations for the processing of interaural difference cues in the chick 
Sound information is encoded as a series of spikes of the auditory nerve fibers (ANFs), and then transmitted to the brainstem auditory nuclei. Features such as timing and level are extracted from ANFs activity and further processed as the interaural time difference (ITD) and the interaural level difference (ILD), respectively. These two interaural difference cues are used for sound source localization by behaving animals. Both cues depend on the head size of animals and are extremely small, requiring specialized neural properties in order to process these cues with precision. Moreover, the sound level and timing cues are not processed independently from one another. Neurons in the nucleus angularis (NA) are specialized for coding sound level information in birds and the ILD is processed in the posterior part of the dorsal lateral lemniscus nucleus (LLDp). Processing of ILD is affected by the phase difference of binaural sound. Temporal features of sound are encoded in the pathway starting in nucleus magnocellularis (NM), and ITD is processed in the nucleus laminaris (NL). In this pathway a variety of specializations are found in synapse morphology, neuronal excitability, distribution of ion channels and receptors along the tonotopic axis, which reduces spike timing fluctuation in the ANFs-NM synapse, and imparts precise and stable ITD processing to the NL. Moreover, the contrast of ITD processing in NL is enhanced over a wide range of sound level through the activity of GABAergic inhibitory systems from both the superior olivary nucleus (SON) and local inhibitory neurons that follow monosynaptic to NM activity.
doi:10.3389/fncir.2014.00047
PMCID: PMC4023016  PMID: 24847212
brainstem auditory nucleus; interaural difference cues; SON; tonic inhibition; phasic inhibition
8.  Connections of the Auditory Brainstem in a Songbird, Taeniopygia guttata. II. Projections of Nucleus Angularis and Nucleus Laminaris to the Superior Olive and Lateral Lemniscal Nuclei 
The Journal of comparative neurology  2010;518(11):10.1002/cne.22324.
Three nuclei of the lateral lemniscus are present in the zebra finch, ventral (LLV), intermediate (LLI), and dorsal (LLD). LLV is separate from the superior olive (OS): it lies closer to the spinal lemniscus and extends much further rostrally around the pontine periphery. LLI extends from a caudal position ventrolateral to the principal sensory trigeminal nucleus (LLIc) to a rostral position medial to the ventrolateral parabrachial nucleus (LLIr). LLD consists of posterior (LLDp) and anterior (LLDa) parts, which are largely coextensive rostrocaudally, although LLDa lies medial to LLDp. All nuclei are identifiable on the basis of cytochrome oxidase activity. The cochlear nucleus angularis (NA) and the third-order nucleus laminaris (NL) project on OS predominantly ipsilaterally, on LLV and LLI predominantly contralaterally, and on LLD contralaterally only. The NA projections are heavier than those of NL and differ from them primarily in their terminations within LLD: NA projects to LLDp, whereas NL projects to LLDa. In this the projections are similar to those in the barn owl (Takahashi and Konishi [1988] J Comp Neurol 274:212–238), in which time and intensity pathways remain separate as far as the central nucleus of the inferior colliculus (MLd). In contrast, in the zebra finch, although NA and NL projections remain separate within LLD, the projections of LLDa and LLDp become intermixed within MLd (Wild et al., J Comp Neurol, this issue), consistent with the intermixing of the direct NA and NL projections to MLd (Krützfeldt et al., J Comp Neurol, this issue). J. Comp. Neurol. 518:2135–2148, 2010.
doi:10.1002/cne.22324
PMCID: PMC3862037  PMID: 20394062
cochlear nuclei; dorsal; ventral, and intermediate nuclei of the lateral lemniscus; zebra finch; avian
9.  Assembly of the Auditory Circuitry by a Hox Genetic Network in the Mouse Brainstem 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(2):e1003249.
Rhombomeres (r) contribute to brainstem auditory nuclei during development. Hox genes are determinants of rhombomere-derived fate and neuronal connectivity. Little is known about the contribution of individual rhombomeres and their associated Hox codes to auditory sensorimotor circuitry. Here, we show that r4 contributes to functionally linked sensory and motor components, including the ventral nucleus of lateral lemniscus, posterior ventral cochlear nuclei (VCN), and motor olivocochlear neurons. Assembly of the r4-derived auditory components is involved in sound perception and depends on regulatory interactions between Hoxb1 and Hoxb2. Indeed, in Hoxb1 and Hoxb2 mutant mice the transmission of low-level auditory stimuli is lost, resulting in hearing impairments. On the other hand, Hoxa2 regulates the Rig1 axon guidance receptor and controls contralateral projections from the anterior VCN to the medial nucleus of the trapezoid body, a circuit involved in sound localization. Thus, individual rhombomeres and their associated Hox codes control the assembly of distinct functionally segregated sub-circuits in the developing auditory brainstem.
Author Summary
Sound perception and sound localization are controlled by two distinct circuits in the central nervous system. However, the cellular and molecular determinants underlying their development are poorly understood. Here, we show that a spatially restricted region of the brainstem, the rhombomere 4, and two members of the Hox gene family, Hoxb1 and Hoxb2, are directly implicated in the development of the circuit leading to sound perception and sound amplification. In the absence of Hoxb1 and Hoxb2 function, we found severe morphological defects in the hair cell population implicated in transducing the acoustic signal, leading ultimately to severe hearing impairments in adult mutant mice. In contrast, the expression in the cochlear nucleus of another Hox member, Hoxa2, regulates the guidance receptor Rig1 and contralateral connectivity in the sound localization circuit. Some of the auditory dysfunctions described in our mouse models resemble pathological hearing conditions in humans, in which patients have an elevated hearing threshold sensitivity, as recorded in audiograms. Thus, this study provides mechanistic insight into the genetic and functional regulation of Hox genes during development and assembly of the auditory system.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1003249
PMCID: PMC3567144  PMID: 23408898
10.  Auditory cortical responses in patients with cochlear implants 
Summary
Currently, the most commonly used electrophysiological tests for cochlear implant evaluation are Averaged Electrical Voltages (AEV), Electrical Advisory Brainstem Responses (EABR) and Neural Response Telemetry (NRT). The present paper focuses on the study of acoustic auditory cortical responses, or slow vertex responses, which are not widely used due to the difficulty in recording, especially in young children. Aims of this study were validation of slow vertex responses and their possible applications in monitoring postimplant results, particularly restoration of hearing and auditory maturation. In practice, the use of tone-bursts, also through hearing aids or cochlear implants, as in slow vertex responses, allows many more frequencies to be investigated and louder intensities to be reached than with other tests based on a click as stimulus. Study design focused on latencies of N1 and P2 slow vertex response peaks in cochlear implants. The study population comprised 45 implant recipients (aged 2 to 70 years), divided into 5 different homogeneous groups according to chronological age, age at onset of deafness, and age at implantation. For each subject, slow vertex responses and free-field auditory responses (PTAS) were recorded for tone-bursts at 500 and 2000 Hz before cochlear implant surgery (using hearing aid amplification) and during scheduled sessions at 3rd and 12th month after implant activation. Results showed that N1 and P2 latencies decreased in all groups starting from 3rd through 12th month after activation. Subjects implanted before school age or at least before age 8 yrs showed the widest latency changes. All subjects showed a reduction in the gap between subjective thresholds (obtained with free field auditory responses) and objective thresholds (obtained with slow vertex responses), obtained in presurgery stage and after cochlear implant. In conclusion, a natural evolution of neurophysiological cortical activities of the auditory pathway, over time, was found especially in young children with prelingual deafness and implanted in preschool age. Cochlear implantation appears to provide hearing restoration, demonstrated by the sharp reduction of the gap between subjective free field auditory responses and slow vertex responses threshold obtained with hearing aids vs. cochlear implant.
PMCID: PMC2639983  PMID: 16886849
Cochlear implant; Auditory cortical responses; Maturation
11.  Connections of the Auditory Brainstem in a Songbird, Taeniopygia guttata. III. Projections of the Superior Olive and Lateral Lemniscal Nuclei 
The Journal of comparative neurology  2010;518(11):10.1002/cne.22325.
Sequential to companion articles that report the projections of the cochlear nucleus angularis (NA) and the third-order nucleus laminaris (NL) to the central nucleus of the inferior colliculus (MLd) and to the superior olive (OS) and lateral lemniscal nuclei (LLV, LLI, and LLD) (Krützfeldt et al., J Comp Neurol, this issue), we here describe the projections of the latter group of nuclei using standard tract-tracing methods. OS projects on LLV and both have further ascending projections on LLI, LLD, and MLd. LLV also provides auditory input to the song system, via nucleus uvaeformis, and to the thalamo-telencephalic auditory system, via nucleus ovoidalis (Ov), thus bypassing MLd. The two divisions of LLD (LLDa and LLDp) project across the midline via the commissure of Probst each to innervate the homologous contralateral nucleus and MLd. Both, particularly LLDp, also project on Ov. Injections in LLD and LLV resulted in anterograde labeling of caudal nucleus basorostralis (Bas) in the frontal telencephalon, but retrograde tracing so far suggests that only LLI is a real source of this projection (Wild and Farabaugh [1996] J Comp Neurol 365:306–328). OS and LLV also have descending projections on the ipsilateral NA, NM, and NL, and LLV also projects on OS. The ascending inputs to MLd and more rostral nuclei may contribute importantly to mechanisms of auditory pattern (song) recognition. Consistent with previous studies, some of the descending projections may be inhibitory.
doi:10.1002/cne.22325
PMCID: PMC3865895  PMID: 20394063
dorsal; ventral, and intermediate nuclei of the lateral lemniscus; zebra finch; avian
12.  EphB signaling regulates target innervation in the developing and deafferented auditory brainstem 
Developmental neurobiology  2012;72(9):1243-1255.
Precision in auditory brainstem connectivity underlies sound localization. Cochlear activity is transmitted to the ventral cochlear nucleus (VCN) in the mammalian brainstem via the auditory nerve. VCN globular bushy cells project to the contralateral medial nucleus of the trapezoid body (MNTB), where specialized axons terminals, the calyces of Held, encapsulate MNTB principal neurons. The VCN-MNTB pathway is an essential component of the circuitry used to compute interaural intensity differences that are used for localizing sounds. When input from one ear is removed during early postnatal development, auditory brainstem circuitry displays robust anatomical plasticity. The molecular mechanisms that control the development of auditory brainstem circuitry and the developmental plasticity of these pathways are poorly understood. In this study we examined the role of EphB signaling in the development of the VCN-MNTB projection and in the reorganization of this pathway after unilateral deafferentation. We found that EphB2 and EphB3 reverse signaling are critical for the normal development of the projection from VCN to MNTB, but that successful circuit assembly most likely relies upon the coordinated function of many EphB proteins. We have also found that ephrin-B reverse signaling repels induced projections to the ipsilateral MNTB after unilateral deafferentation, suggesting that similar mechanisms regulate these two processes.
doi:10.1002/dneu.20990
PMCID: PMC3418463  PMID: 22021100
EphB; ephrin-B; VCN; MNTB; deafferentation
13.  Math5 expression and function in the central auditory system 
The basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) transcription factor Math5 (Atoh7) is required for retinal ganglion cell (RGC) and optic nerve development. Using Math5-lacZ knockout mice, we have identified an additional expression domain for Math5 outside the eye, in functionally connected structures of the central auditory system. In the adult hindbrain, the cytoplasmic Math5-lacZ reporter is expressed within the ventral cochlear nucleus (VCN), in a subpopulation of neurons that project to medial nucleus of the trapezoid body (MNTB), lateral superior olive (LSO), and lateral lemniscus (LL). These cells were identified as globular and small spherical bushy cells based on their morphology, abundance, distribution within the cochlear nucleus (CN), co-expression of Kv1.1, Kv3.1b and Kcnq4 potassium channels, and projection patterns within the auditory brainstem. Math5-lacZ is also expressed by cochlear root neurons in the auditory nerve. During embryonic development, Math5-lacZ was detected in precursor cells emerging from the caudal rhombic lip from embryonic day (E)12 onwards, consistent with the time course of CN neurogenesis. These cells co-express MafB, Math1 and Math5 and are post-mitotic. Math5 expression in the CN was verified by mRNA in situ hybridization, and the identity of positive neurons was confirmed morphologically using a Math5-Cre BAC transgene with an alkaline phosphatase reporter.
The hindbrains of Math5 mutants appear grossly normal, with the exception of the CN. Although overall CN dimensions are unchanged, the lacZ positive cells are significantly smaller in Math5 −/− mice compared to Math5 +/− mice, suggesting these neurons may function abnormally. The Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR) of Math5 mutants was evaluated in a BALB/cJ congenic background. ABR thresholds of Math5 −/− mice were similar to those of wild-type and heterozygous mice, but the interpeak latencies for Peaks II-IV were significantly altered. These temporal changes are consistent with a higher level auditory processing disorder involving the CN, potentially affecting the integration of binaural sensory information.
doi:10.1016/j.mcn.2007.09.006
PMCID: PMC2266824  PMID: 17977745
Math5; cochlear nucleus; AVCN; PVCN; mouse; atonal; Math1; bHLH; globular bushy cells; spherical bushy cells; cochlear root neurons; auditory processing; ABR latency; binaural integration; interaural intensity difference; interaural time difference; phase locking; Calyx of Held; Kv1.1; Kv3.1; Kcnq4; mafB; Cre recombinase; fluorogold; tract-tracing; inferior colliculus; multipolar cells; rhombic lip
14.  Egr2::Cre Mediated Conditional Ablation of Dicer Disrupts Histogenesis of Mammalian Central Auditory Nuclei 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e49503.
Histogenesis of the auditory system requires extensive molecular orchestration. Recently, Dicer1, an essential gene for generation of microRNAs, and miR-96 were shown to be important for development of the peripheral auditory system. Here, we investigated their role for the formation of the auditory brainstem. Egr2::Cre-mediated early embryonic ablation of Dicer1 caused severe disruption of auditory brainstem structures. In adult animals, the volume of the cochlear nucleus complex (CNC) was reduced by 73.5%. This decrease is in part attributed to the lack of the microneuronal shell. In contrast, fusiform cells, which similar to the granular cells of the microneural shell are derived from Egr2 positive cells, were still present. The volume reduction of the CNC was already present at birth (67.2% decrease). The superior olivary complex was also drastically affected in these mice. Nissl staining as well as Vglut1 and Calbindin 1 immunolabeling revealed that principal SOC nuclei such as the medial nucleus of the trapezoid body and the lateral superior olive were absent. Only choline acetyltransferase positive neurons of the olivocochlear bundle were observed as a densely packed cell group in the ventrolateral area of the SOC. Mid-embryonic ablation of Dicer1 in the ventral cochlear nucleus by Atoh7::Cre-mediated recombination resulted in normal formation of the cochlear nucleus complex, indicating an early embryonic requirement of Dicer1. Quantitative RT-PCR analysis of miR-96 demonstrated low expression in the embryonic brainstem and up-regulation thereafter, suggesting that other microRNAs are required for proper histogenesis of the auditory brainstem. Together our data identify a critical role of Dicer activity during embryonic development of the auditory brainstem.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0049503
PMCID: PMC3495878  PMID: 23152916
15.  Localization of KCNC1 (Kv3.1) Potassium Channel Subunits in the Avian Auditory Nucleus Magnocellularis and Nucleus Laminaris during Development 
Journal of Neurobiology  2003;55(2):165-178.
The KCNC1 (previously Kv3.1) potassium channel, a delayed rectifier with a high threshold of activation, is highly expressed in the time coding nuclei of the adult chicken and barn owl auditory brainstem. The proposed role of KCNC1 currents in auditory neurons is to reduce the width of the action potential and enable neurons to transmit high frequency temporal information with little jitter. Because developmental changes in potassium currents are critical for the maturation of the shape of the action potential, we used immunohistochemical methods to examine the developmental expression of KCNC1 subunits in the avian auditory brainstem. The KCNC1 gene gives rise to two splice variants, a longer KCNC1b and a shorter KCNC1a that differ at the carboxy termini. Two antibodies were used: an antibody to the N-terminus that does not distinguish between KCNC1a and b isoforms, denoted as panKCNC1, and another antibody that specifically recognizes the C terminus of KCNC1b. A comparison of the staining patterns observed with the pan-KCNC1 and the KCNC1b specific antibodies suggests that KCNC1a and KCNC1b splice variants are differentially regulated during development. Although pan-KCNC1 immunoreactivity is observed from the earliest time examined in the chicken (E10), a subcellular redistribution of the immunoproduct was apparent over the course of development. KCNC1b specific staining has a late onset with immunostaining first appearing in the regions that map high frequencies in nucleus magnocellularis (NM) and nucleus laminaris (NL). The expression of KCNC1b protein begins around E14 in the chicken and after E21 in the barn owl, relatively late during ontogeny and at the time that synaptic connections mature morphologically and functionally.
doi:10.1002/neu.10198
PMCID: PMC3268178  PMID: 12672015
chicken; barn owl; ontogeny; time coding; outward current; high threshold
16.  Behavioral Determination of Stimulus Pair Discrimination of Auditory Acoustic and Electrical Stimuli Using a Classical Conditioning and Heart-rate Approach 
Acute animal preparations have been used in research prospectively investigating electrode designs and stimulation techniques for integration into neural auditory prostheses, such as auditory brainstem implants1-3 and auditory midbrain implants4,5. While acute experiments can give initial insight to the effectiveness of the implant, testing the chronically implanted and awake animals provides the advantage of examining the psychophysical properties of the sensations induced using implanted devices6,7.
Several techniques such as reward-based operant conditioning6-8, conditioned avoidance9-11, or classical fear conditioning12 have been used to provide behavioral confirmation of detection of a relevant stimulus attribute. Selection of a technique involves balancing aspects including time efficiency (often poor in reward-based approaches), the ability to test a plurality of stimulus attributes simultaneously (limited in conditioned avoidance), and measure reliability of repeated stimuli (a potential constraint when physiological measures are employed).
Here, a classical fear conditioning behavioral method is presented which may be used to simultaneously test both detection of a stimulus, and discrimination between two stimuli. Heart-rate is used as a measure of fear response, which reduces or eliminates the requirement for time-consuming video coding for freeze behaviour or other such measures (although such measures could be included to provide convergent evidence). Animals were conditioned using these techniques in three 2-hour conditioning sessions, each providing 48 stimulus trials. Subsequent 48-trial testing sessions were then used to test for detection of each stimulus in presented pairs, and test discrimination between the member stimuli of each pair.
This behavioral method is presented in the context of its utilisation in auditory prosthetic research. The implantation of electrocardiogram telemetry devices is shown. Subsequent implantation of brain electrodes into the Cochlear Nucleus, guided by the monitoring of neural responses to acoustic stimuli, and the fixation of the electrode into place for chronic use is likewise shown.
doi:10.3791/3598
PMCID: PMC3476383  PMID: 22710937
Neuroscience;  Issue 64;  Physiology;  auditory;  hearing;  brainstem;  stimulation;  rat;  abi
17.  Development of N-Methyl-D-Aspartate Receptor Subunits in Avian Auditory Brainstem 
N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor subunit-specific probes were used to characterize developmental changes in the distribution of excitatory amino acid receptors in the chicken’s auditory brainstem nuclei. Although NR1 subunit expression does not change greatly during the development of the cochlear nuclei in the chicken (Tang and Carr [2004] Hear. Res 191:79 – 89), there are significant developmental changes in NR2 subunit expression. We used in situ hybridization against NR1, NR2A, NR2B, NR2C, and NR2D to compare NR1 and NR2 expression during development. All five NMDA subunits were expressed in the auditory brainstem before embryonic day (E) 10, when electrical activity and synaptic responses appear in the nucleus magnocellularis (NM) and the nucleus laminaris (NL). At this time, the dominant form of the receptor appeared to contain NR1 and NR2B. NR2A appeared to replace NR2B by E14, a time that coincides with synaptic refinement and evoked auditory responses. NR2C did not change greatly during auditory development, whereas NR2D increased from E10 and remained at fairly high levels into adulthood. Thus changes in NMDA NR2 receptor subunits may contribute to the development of auditory brainstem responses in the chick.
doi:10.1002/cne.21303
PMCID: PMC3268522  PMID: 17366608
cochlear nucleus; magnocellularis; laminaris; angularis; tonotopic gradient
18.  Development of N-Methyl-D-Aspartate Receptor Subunits in Avian Auditory Brainstem 
Hearing Research  2004;191(1-2):79-89.
N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor subunit-specific probes were used to characterize developmental changes in the distribution of excitatory amino acid receptors in the chicken’s auditory brainstem nuclei. Although NR1 subunit expression does not change greatly during the development of the cochlear nuclei in the chicken (Tang and Carr [2004] Hear. Res 191:79–89), there are significant developmental changes in NR2 subunit expression. We used in situ hybridization against NR1, NR2A, NR2B, NR2C, and NR2D to compare NR1 and NR2 expression during development. All five NMDA subunits were expressed in the auditory brainstem before embryonic day (E) 10, when electrical activity and synaptic responses appear in the nucleus magnocellularis (NM) and the nucleus laminaris (NL). At this time, the dominant form of the receptor appeared to contain NR1 and NR2B. NR2A appeared to replace NR2B by E14, a time that coincides with synaptic refinement and evoked auditory responses. NR2C did not change greatly during auditory development, whereas NR2D increased from E10 and remained at fairly high levels into adulthood. Thus changes in NMDA NR2 receptor subunits may contribute to the development of auditory brainstem responses in the chick.
doi:10.1016/j.heares.2004.01.007
PMCID: PMC3269632  PMID: 15109707
cochlear nucleus; magnocellularis; laminaris; angularis; tonotopic gradient
19.  Noise over-exposure alters long-term somatosensory-auditory processing in the dorsal cochlear nucleus – possible basis for tinnitus-related hyperactivity? 
The dorsal cochlear nucleus (DCN) is the first neural site of bimodal auditory-somatosensory integration. Previous studies have shown that stimulation of somatosensory pathways results in immediate suppression or enhancement of subsequent acoustically-evoked discharges. In the unimpaired auditory system suppression predominates. However, damage to the auditory input pathway leads to enhancement of excitatory somatosensory inputs to the cochlear nucleus, changing their effects on DCN neurons (Zeng et al., 2009; Shore et al., 2008). Given the well described connection between the somatosensory system and tinnitus in patients we sought to determine if plastic changes in long lasting bimodal somatosensory-auditory processing accompany tinnitus. Here we demonstrate for the first time in vivo long-term effects of somatosensory inputs on acoustically-evoked discharges of DCN neurons in guinea pigs. The effects of trigeminal nucleus stimulation are compared between normal-hearing animals and animals overexposed with narrow band noise and behaviorally tested for tinnitus. The noise exposure resulted in a temporary threshold shift (TTS) in auditory brainstem responses but a persistent increase in spontaneous and sound-evoked DCN unit firing rates and increased steepness of rate-level functions (RLFs). Rate increases were especially prominent in buildup units. The long-term somatosensory enhancement of sound-evoked responses was strengthened while suppressive effects diminished in noise-exposed animals, especially those that developed tinnitus. Damage to the auditory nerve (ANF) is postulated to trigger compensatory long-term synaptic plasticity of somatosensory inputs that might be an important underlying mechanism for tinnitus generation.
doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4608-11.2012
PMCID: PMC3567464  PMID: 22302808
20.  Theoretical foundations of the sound analog membrane potential that underlies coincidence detection in the barn owl 
A wide variety of neurons encode temporal information via phase-locked spikes. In the avian auditory brainstem, neurons in the cochlear nucleus magnocellularis (NM) send phase-locked synaptic inputs to coincidence detector neurons in the nucleus laminaris (NL) that mediate sound localization. Previous modeling studies suggested that converging phase-locked synaptic inputs may give rise to a periodic oscillation in the membrane potential of their target neuron. Recent physiological recordings in vivo revealed that owl NL neurons changed their spike rates almost linearly with the amplitude of this oscillatory potential. The oscillatory potential was termed the sound analog potential, because of its resemblance to the waveform of the stimulus tone. The amplitude of the sound analog potential recorded in NL varied systematically with the interaural time difference (ITD), which is one of the most important cues for sound localization. In order to investigate the mechanisms underlying ITD computation in the NM-NL circuit, we provide detailed theoretical descriptions of how phase-locked inputs form oscillating membrane potentials. We derive analytical expressions that relate presynaptic, synaptic, and postsynaptic factors to the signal and noise components of the oscillation in both the synaptic conductance and the membrane potential. Numerical simulations demonstrate the validity of the theoretical formulations for the entire frequency ranges tested (1–8 kHz) and potential effects of higher harmonics on NL neurons with low best frequencies (<2 kHz).
doi:10.3389/fncom.2013.00151
PMCID: PMC3821005  PMID: 24265616
phase-locking; sound localization; auditory brainstem; periodic signals; oscillation; owl
21.  Perceptual organization of sound begins in the auditory periphery 
Current biology : CB  2008;18(15):1124-1128.
Summary
Segmenting the complex acoustic mixture that makes a typical auditory scene into relevant perceptual objects is one of the main challenges of the auditory system [1], for both human and non-human species. Several recent studies indicate that perceptual auditory object formation, or “streaming”, may be based on neural activity within auditory cortex and beyond [2, 3]. Here, we find that scene analysis starts much earlier in the auditory pathways. Single units were recorded from a peripheral structure of the mammalian auditory brainstem, the cochlear nucleus. Peripheral responses were similar to cortical responses and displayed all of the functional properties required for streaming, including multi-second adaptation. Behavioral streaming was also measured in human listeners. Neurometric functions derived from the peripheral responses predicted accurately behavioral streaming. This reveals that sub-cortical structures may already contribute to the analysis of auditory scenes. This finding is consistent with the observation that species lacking a neocortex can still achieve and benefit from behavioral streaming [4]. For humans, we argue that auditory scene analysis of complex scenes is likely to be based on interactions between sub-cortical and cortical neural processes, with the relative contribution of each stage depending on nature of the acoustic cues forming the streams.
doi:10.1016/j.cub.2008.06.053
PMCID: PMC2559912  PMID: 18656355
22.  Auditory Brainstem Circuits That Mediate the Middle Ear Muscle Reflex 
Trends in amplification  2010;14(3):170-191.
The middle ear muscle (MEM) reflex is one of two major descending systems to the auditory periphery. There are two middle ear muscles (MEMs): the stapedius and the tensor tympani. In man, the stapedius contracts in response to intense low frequency acoustic stimuli, exerting forces perpendicular to the stapes superstructure, increasing middle ear impedance and attenuating the intensity of sound energy reaching the inner ear (cochlea). The tensor tympani is believed to contract in response to self-generated noise (chewing, swallowing) and nonauditory stimuli. The MEM reflex pathways begin with sound presented to the ear. Transduction of sound occurs in the cochlea, resulting in an action potential that is transmitted along the auditory nerve to the cochlear nucleus in the brainstem (the first relay station for all ascending sound information originating in the ear). Unknown interneurons in the ventral cochlear nucleus project either directly or indirectly to MEM motoneurons located elsewhere in the brainstem. Motoneurons provide efferent innervation to the MEMs. Although the ascending and descending limbs of these reflex pathways have been well characterized, the identity of the reflex interneurons is not known, as are the source of modulatory inputs to these pathways. The aim of this article is to (a) provide an overview of MEM reflex anatomy and physiology, (b) present new data on MEM reflex anatomy and physiology from our laboratory and others, and (c) describe the clinical implications of our research.
doi:10.1177/1084713810381771
PMCID: PMC3624626  PMID: 20870664
acoustic reflex; middle ear muscle; pseudo-rabies virus; auditory prosthetic devices; middle ear ossicles
23.  A Dominantly Inherited Progressive Deafness Affecting Distal Auditory Nerve and Hair Cells 
We have studied 72 members belonging to a large kindred with a hearing disorder inherited in an autosomal dominant pattern. We used audiological, physiological, and psychoacoustic measures to characterize the hearing disorders. The initial phenotypic features of the hearing loss are of an auditory neuropathy (AN) with abnormal auditory nerve and brainstem responses (ABRs) and normal outer hair cell functions [otoacoustic emissions (OAEs) and cochlear microphonics (CMs)]. Psychoacoustic studies revealed profound abnormalities of auditory temporal processes (gap detection, amplitude modulation detection, speech discrimination) and frequency processes (difference limens) beyond that seen in hearing impairment accompanying cochlear sensory disorders. The hearing loss progresses over 10–20 years to also involve outer hair cells, producing a profound sensorineural hearing loss with absent ABRs and OAEs. Affected family members do not have evidence of other cranial or peripheral neuropathies. There was a marked improvement of auditory functions in three affected family members studied after cochlear implantation with return of electrically evoked auditory brainstem responses (EABRs), auditory temporal processes, and speech recognition. These findings are compatible with a distal auditory nerve disorder affecting one or all of the components in the auditory periphery including terminal auditory nerve dendrites, inner hair cells, and the synapses between inner hair cells and auditory nerve. There is relative sparing of auditory ganglion cells and their axons.
doi:10.1007/s10162-004-5014-5
PMCID: PMC2504566  PMID: 15675004
hereditary deafness; auditory neuropathy; sensorineural; cochlear implant
24.  Efferent Feedback Minimizes Cochlear Neuropathy from Moderate Noise Exposure 
Although protective effects of the cochlea’s efferent feedback pathways have been well documented, prior work has focused on hair cell damage and cochlear threshold elevation and, correspondingly, on the high sound pressure levels (> 100 dB SPL) necessary to produce them. Here we explore the noise-induced loss of cochlear neurons that occurs with lower intensity exposures and in the absence of permanent threshold shifts. Using confocal microscopy to count synapses between hair cells and cochlear nerve fibers, and using measurement of auditory brainstem responses and otoacoustic emissions to assess cochlear pre- and post-synaptic function, we compare the damage from a weeklong exposure to moderate-level noise (84 dB SPL) in mice with varying degrees of cochlear de-efferentation induced by surgical lesion to the olivocochlear pathway. Such exposure causes minimal acute threshold shift and no chronic shifts in mice with normal efferent feedback. In de-efferented animals, there was up to 40% loss of cochlear nerve synapses and a corresponding decline in the amplitude of the auditory brainstem response. Quantitative analysis of the de-efferentation in inner vs. outer hair cell areas suggested that outer hair cell efferents are most important in minimizing this neuropathy, presumably by virtue of their sound-evoked feedback reduction of cochlear amplification. The moderate nature of this acoustic overexposure suggests that cochlear neurons are at risk even in everyday acoustic environments, and, thus, that the need for cochlear protection is plausible as a driving force in the design of this feedback pathway.
doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5027-12.2013
PMCID: PMC3640841  PMID: 23536069
Auditory neuropathy; olivocochlear; hair cells; cochlea; noise; acoustic injury; feedback
25.  Projections from Auditory Cortex to Cochlear Nucleus: A Comparative Analysis of Rat and Mouse 
Mammalian hearing is a complex special sense that involves detection, localization, and identification of the auditory stimulus. The cerebral cortex may subserve higher auditory processes by providing direct modulatory cortical projections to the auditory brainstem. To support the hypothesis that corticofugal projections are a conserved feature in the mammalian brain this manuscript reviews features of the rat corticofugal pathway and presents new data supporting the presence of similar projections in the mouse. The mouse auditory cortex was localized with electrophysiological recording and neuronal tracers were injected into A1. The cochlear nucleus was dissected and examined for terminal fibers by light and electron microscopy. Bouton endings were found bilaterally forming synapses with dendrites of granule cells of the cochlear nucleus. This report provides evidence for direct auditory cortex projections to the cochlear nucleus in the mouse. The distribution of projections to the granule cell domain and the synapses onto granule cell dendrites are consistent with what has been reported for rats and guinea pigs. These findings suggest a general plan for corticofugal modulation of ascending auditory information in mammals. Corticobulbar inputs to the auditory brainstem likely provided a survival advantage by improving sound detection and identification, thus allowing the development of complex social behaviors and the navigation of varied environments.
doi:10.1002/ar.a.20300
PMCID: PMC2613945  PMID: 16550586
corticobulbar; auditory; mouse; cochlear nucleus; granule cell

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