There are two types of sensory cells in the mammalian cochlea, inner hair cells, which make synaptic contact with auditory-nerve afferent fibers, and outer hair cells that are innervated by crossed and uncrossed medial olivocochlear (MOC) efferent fibers. Contralateral acoustic stimulation activates the uncrossed efferent MOC fibers reducing cochlear neural responses, thus modifying the input to the central auditory system. The chinchilla, among all studied mammals, displays the lowest percentage of uncrossed MOC fibers raising questions about the strength and frequency distribution of the contralateral-sound effect in this species. On the other hand, MOC effects on cochlear sensitivity have been mainly studied in anesthetized animals and since the MOC-neuron activity depends on the level of anesthesia, it is important to assess the influence of anesthesia in the strength of efferent effects. Seven adult chinchillas (Chinchilla laniger) were chronically implanted with round-window electrodes in both cochleae. We compared the effect of contralateral sound in awake and anesthetized condition. Compound action potentials (CAP) and cochlear microphonics (CM) were measured in the ipsilateral cochlea in response to tones in absence and presence of contralateral sound. Control measurements performed after middle-ear muscles section in one animal discarded any possible middle-ear reflex activation. Contralateral sound produced CAP amplitude reductions in all chinchillas, with suppression effects greater by about 1–3 dB in awake than in anesthetized animals. In contrast, CM amplitude increases of up to 1.9 dB were found in only three awake chinchillas. In both conditions the strongest efferent effects were produced by contralateral tones at frequencies equal or close to those of ipsilateral tones. Contralateral CAP suppressions for 1–6 kHz ipsilateral tones corresponded to a span of uncrossed MOC fiber innervation reaching at least the central third of the chinchilla cochlea.
olivocochlear; auditory efferent; contralateral MOC reflex; CAP suppression; frequency tuning; anesthesia
The mammalian cochlea has two types of sensory cells; inner hair cells, which receive auditory-nerve afferent innervation, and outer hair cells, innervated by efferent axons of the medial olivocochlear (MOC) system. The role of the MOC system in hearing is still controversial. Recently, by recording cochlear potentials in behaving chinchillas, we suggested that one of the possible functions of the efferent system is to reduce cochlear sensitivity during attention to other sensory modalities (Delano et al. in J Neurosci 27:4146–4153, 2007). However, in spite of these compelling results, the physiological effects of electrical MOC activation on cochlear potentials have not been described in detail in chinchillas. The main objective of the present work was to describe these efferent effects in the chinchilla, comparing them with those in other species and in behavioral experiments. We activated the MOC efferent axons in chinchillas with sectioned middle-ear muscles by applying current pulses at the fourth-ventricle floor. Auditory-nerve compound action potentials (CAP) and cochlear microphonics (CM) were acquired in response to clicks and tones of several frequencies, using a round-window electrode. Electrical efferent stimulation produced CAP amplitude suppressions reaching up to 11 dB. They were higher for low to moderate sound levels. Additionally, CM amplitude increments were found, the largest (≤ 2.5 dB) for low intensity tones. CAP suppression was present at all stimulus frequencies, but was greatest for 2 kHz. CM increments were highest for low-frequency tones, and almost absent at high frequencies. We conclude that the effect obtained in chinchilla is similar to but smaller than that observed in cats, and that the effects seen in awake chinchillas, albeit different in magnitude, are consistent with the activation of efferent fibers.
auditory efferent; olivocochlear; chinchilla; electric stimulation; cochlear potentials
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.
Auditory neuropathy; olivocochlear; hair cells; cochlea; noise; acoustic injury; feedback
Acoustic information is brought to the brain by auditory nerve fibers, all of which terminate in the cochlear nuclei, and is passed up the auditory pathway through the principal cells of the cochlear nuclei. A population of neurons variously known as T stellate, type I multipolar, planar multipolar, or chopper cells forms one of the major ascending auditory pathways through the brain stem. T Stellate cells are sharply tuned; as a population they encode the spectrum of sounds. In these neurons, phasic excitation from the auditory nerve is made more tonic by feed forward excitation, coactivation of inhibitory with excitatory inputs, relatively large excitatory currents through NMDA receptors, and relatively little synaptic depression. The mechanisms that make firing tonic also obscure the fine structure of sounds that is represented in the excitatory inputs from the auditory nerve and account for the characteristic chopping response patterns with which T stellate cells respond to tones. In contrast with other principal cells of the ventral cochlear nucleus (VCN), T stellate cells lack a low-voltage-activated potassium conductance and are therefore sensitive to small, steady, neuromodulating currents. The presence of cholinergic, serotonergic and noradrenergic receptors allows the excitability of these cells to be modulated by medial olivocochlear efferent neurons and by neuronal circuits associated with arousal. T Stellate cells deliver acoustic information to the ipsilateral dorsal cochlear nucleus (DCN), ventral nucleus of the trapezoid body (VNTB), periolivary regions around the lateral superior olivary nucleus (LSO), and to the contralateral ventral lemniscal nuclei (VNLL) and inferior colliculus (IC). It is likely that T stellate cells participate in feedback loops through both medial and lateral olivocochlear efferent neurons and they may be a source of ipsilateral excitation of the LSO.
ventral cochlear nucleus; brainstem auditory pathways; ion channels; patch-clamp recording
Dynorphins, glutamate, and glutamate-sensitive N-Methyl-d-Aspartate (NMDA) receptors exist in the mammalian cochlea. Dynorphins produce neural excitation and excitotoxic effects in the spinal cord through a κ-opioid facilitation of NMDA receptor sensitivity to glutamate. The κ-opioid receptor drug agonists N-dimethylallyl-normetazocine [(-)-pentazocine (50 mmol)] and trans-3,4-dichloro-N-methyl-N-[2-(1-pyrrolidinyl)-cyclohexyl]-benzeneacetamide [U-50488H (100 mmol)] were administered across the cochlear round window membrane in the chinchilla. Each drug produced significant post-baseline amplitude changes in the click-evoked auditory nerve compound action potential. Amplitude changes at threshold amounted to increases in sensitivity that ranged from 4-8 decibels, measured in sound pressure level (dB SPL). The large neural amplitude increases at threshold were accompanied by progressively smaller amplitude changes at 5 and 10 dB above threshold (dB SL). However, at stimulus intensities ≥ 20dB SL, post-baseline neural amplitudes were suppressed to levels below baseline and control values. These bi-phasic intensity-dependent neural amplitude changes have never before been observed following i.v. administered (-)-pentazocine in this species. Finally, the bi-phasic neural amplitude changes in U-50488H-treated (100 mmol) animals were partially blocked (except at 20dB SL), following a round window pretreatment with the NMDA receptor drug antagonist, dizocilpine hydrogen maleate [(+)-MK-801 (8 mmol)]. Our data suggests that endogenous dynorphins within lateral efferent olivocochlear neurons differentially modulate auditory neural excitation, possibly through cochlear NMDA receptors and glutamate. The role played by lateral efferent opioid neuromodulation at cochlear NMDA receptors, is discussed.
(+)-MK-801 (dizocilpine hydrogen maleate); U-50488H; (-)-pentazocine; N-Methyl-d-Aspartate (NMDA) receptors; lateral efferent olivocochlear system; κ-opioid receptors; dynorphins; glutamate; auditory nerve; compound action potential
Lesion studies of the olivocochlear efferents have suggested that feedback via this neuronal pathway normally maintains an appropriate binaural balance in excitability of the two cochlear nerves (Darrow et al., 2006). If true, a decrease in cochlear nerve output from one ear, due to conductive or sensorineural hearing loss, should change cochlear nerve response in the opposite ear via modulation in olivocochlear feedback. To investigate this putative efferent-mediated interaural coupling, we measured cochlear responses repeatedly from both ears in groups of mice for several weeks before, and for up to 5 weeks after, a unilateral manipulation causing either conductive or sensorineural hearing loss. Response measures included amplitude-vs.-level functions for distortion product otoacoustic emissions (DPOAEs) and auditory brainstem responses (ABRs), evoked at 7 log-spaced frequencies. Ipsilateral manipulations included either tympanic membrane removal or an acoustic overstimulation designed to produce a reversible or irreversible threshold shift over a restricted frequency range. None of these ipsilateral manipulations produced systematic changes in contralateral cochlear responses, either at threshold or suprathreshold levels, either in ABRs or DPOAEs. Thus, we find no evidence for compensatory contralateral changes following ipsilateral hearing loss. We did, however, find evidence for age-related increases in DPOAE amplitudes as animals mature from 6 to 12 weeks and evidence for a slow apical spread of noise-induced threshold shifts, which continues for several days post-exposure.
hearing loss; feedback; acoustic injury
The mammalian auditory system includes a brainstem-mediated efferent pathway from the superior olivary complex by way of the medial olivocochlear system, which reduces the cochlear response to sound (Warr and Guinan, 1979; Liberman et al., 1996). The human medial olivocochlear response has an onset delay of between 25 and 40 ms and rise and decay constants in the region of 280 and 160 ms, respectively (Backus and Guinan, 2006). Physiological studies with nonhuman mammals indicate that onset and decay characteristics of efferent activation are dependent on the temporal and level characteristics of the auditory stimulus (Bacon and Smith, 1991; Guinan and Stankovic, 1996). This study uses a novel psychoacoustical masking technique using a precursor sound to obtain a measure of the efferent effect in humans. This technique avoids confounds currently associated with other psychoacoustical measures. Both temporal and level dependency of the efferent effect was measured, providing a comprehensive measure of the effect of human auditory efferents on cochlear gain and compression. Results indicate that a precursor (>20 dB SPL) induced efferent activation, resulting in a decrease in both maximum gain and maximum compression, with linearization of the compressive function for input sound levels between 50 and 70 dB SPL. Estimated gain decreased as precursor level increased, and increased as the silent interval between the precursor and combined masker-signal stimulus increased, consistent with a decay of the efferent effect. Human auditory efferent activation linearizes the cochlear response for mid-level sounds while reducing maximum gain.
cochlear; compression; efferent; gain; masking; neural
The inner ear receives two types of efferent feedback from the brainstem: one pathway provides gain control on outer hair cells' contribution to cochlear amplification, and the other modulates the excitability of the cochlear nerve. Although efferent feedback can protect hair cells from acoustic injury and thereby minimize noise-induced permanent threshold shifts, most prior studies focused on high-intensity exposures (>100 dB SPL). Here, we show that efferents are essential for long-term maintenance of cochlear function in mice aged 1 year post-de-efferentation without purposeful acoustic overexposure. Cochlear de-efferentation was achieved by surgical lesion of efferent pathways in the brainstem and was assessed by quantitative analysis of immunostained efferent terminals in outer and inner hair cell areas. The resultant loss of efferent feedback accelerated the age-related amplitude reduction in cochlear neural responses, as seen in auditory brainstem responses, and increased the loss of synapses between hair cells and the terminals of cochlear nerve fibers, as seen in confocal analysis of the organ of Corti immunostained for presynaptic and postsynaptic markers. This type of neuropathy, also seen after moderate noise exposure, has been termed “hidden hearing loss”, because it does not affect thresholds, but can be seen in the suprathreshold amplitudes of cochlear neural responses, and likely causes problems with hearing in a noisy environment, a classic symptom of age-related hearing loss in humans. Since efferent reflex strength varies among individuals and can be measured noninvasively, a weak reflex may be an important risk factor, and prognostic indicator, for age-related hearing impairment.
auditory neuropathy; feedback; hair cells; hearing conservation
Auditory neuropathy is a hearing disorder characterized by normal function of outer hair cells, evidenced by intact cochlear microphonic (CM) potentials and otoacoustic emissions (OAEs), with absent or severely dys-synchronized auditory brainstem responses (ABRs). To determine if selective lesions of inner hair cells (IHCs) and auditory nerve fibers (ANFs) can account for these primary clinical features of auditory neuropathy, we measured physiological responses from chinchillas with large lesions of ANFs (about 85%) and IHCs (45% loss in the apical half of the cochlea; 73% in the basal half). Distortion product OAEs and CM potentials were significantly enhanced, whereas summating potentials and compound action potentials (CAPs) were significantly reduced. CAP threshold was elevated by 7.5 dB, but response synchrony was well preserved down to threshold levels of stimulation. Similarly, ABR threshold was elevated by 5.6 dB, but all waves were present and well synchronized down to threshold levels in all animals. Thus, large lesions of IHCs and ANFs reduced response amplitudes but did not abolish or severely dys-synchronize CAPs or ABRs. Pathologies other than or in addition to ANF and IHC loss are likely to account for the evoked potential dys-synchrony that is a clinical hallmark of auditory neuropathy in humans.
Auditory neuropathy; inner hair cells; auditory nerve; carboplatin; auditory brainstem response; cochlea; auditory evoked potentials
The cochlear microphonic is a receptor potential believed to be generated primarily by outer hair cells. Its detection in surface recordings has been considered a distinctive sign of outer hair cell integrity in patients with auditory neuropathy. This report focuses on the results of an analysis performed on cochlear microphonic recorded by transtympanic electrocochleography in response to clicks in 502 subjects with normal hearing threshold or various degrees of hearing impairment, and in 20 patients with auditory neuropathy. Cochlear microphonics recorded in normally-hearing and hearing-impaired ears showed amplitudes decreasing by the elevation of compound action potential Cochlear microphonic responses were clearly detected in ears with profound hearing loss. After separating recordings according to the presence or absence of central nervous system pathology (CNS+ and CNS-, respectively), cochlear microphonic amplitude was significantly higher in CNS+ than in CNS- subjects with normally-hearing ears and at 70 dB nHL compound action potential threshold. Cochlear microphonic responses were detected in all auditory neuropathy patients, with similar amplitudes and thresholds to those calculated for normally-hearing CNS- subjects. Cochlear microphonic duration was significantly higher in auditory neuropathy and normally-hearing CNS+ patients compared to CNS- subjects. Our results show that: 1. cochlear microphonic detection is not a distinctive feature of auditory neuropathy; 2. CNS+ subjects showed enhancement in cochlear microphonic amplitude and duration, possibly due to efferent system dysfunction; 3. long-lasting, high frequency cochlear microphonics with amplitudes comparable to those obtained from CNS- ears were found in auditory neuropathy patients. This could result from a variable combination of afferent compartment lesion, efferent system dysfacilitation and loss of outer hair cells.
Hearing impairment; Auditory neuropathy; CNS disorders; Electrocochleography; Cochlear microphonic potential
Masked detection threshold for a short tone in noise improves as the tone’s onset is delayed from the masker’s onset. This improvement, known as “overshoot,” is maximal at mid-masker levels and is reduced by temporary and permanent cochlear hearing loss. Computational modeling was used in the present study to evaluate proposed physiological mechanisms of overshoot, including classic firing rate adaptation and medial olivocochlear (MOC) feedback, for both normal hearing and cochlear hearing loss conditions. These theories were tested using an established model of the auditory periphery and signal detection theory techniques. The influence of several analysis variables on predicted tone-pip detection in broadband noise was evaluated, including: auditory nerve fiber spontaneous-rate (SR) pooling, range of characteristic frequencies, number of synapses per characteristic frequency, analysis window duration, and detection rule. The results revealed that overshoot similar to perceptual data in terms of both magnitude and level dependence could be predicted when the effects of MOC efferent feedback were included in the auditory nerve model. Conversely, simulations without MOC feedback effects never produced overshoot despite the model’s ability to account for classic firing rate adaptation and dynamic range adaptation in auditory nerve responses. Cochlear hearing loss was predicted to reduce the size of overshoot only for model versions that included the effects of MOC efferent feedback. These findings suggest that overshoot in normal and hearing-impaired listeners is mediated by some form of dynamic range adaptation other than what is observed in the auditory nerve of anesthetized animals. Mechanisms for this adaptation may occur at several levels along the auditory pathway. Among these mechanisms, the MOC reflex may play a leading role.
auditory masking; temporal aspects of masking; auditory detection; psychophysical overshoot; computational modeling; adaptation; medial olivocochlear efferents; dynamic range adaptation; hearing impairment; auditory nerve; basilar membrane compression
Recent studies lead to the conclusion that focused attention, through the activity of corticofugal and medial olivocochlear (MOC) efferent pathways, modulates activity at the most peripheral aspects of the auditory system within the cochlea. In two experiments, we investigated the effects of different intermodal attention manipulations on the response of outer hair cells (OHCs), and the control exerted by the MOC efferent system. The effect of the MOCs on OHC activity was characterized by measuring the amplitude and rapid adaptation time course of distortion product otoacoustic emissions (DPOAEs). In the first, DPOAE recordings were compared while participants were reading a book and counting the occurrence of the letter “a” (auditory-ignoring) and while counting either short- or long-duration eliciting tones (auditory-attending). In the second, DPOAEs were recorded while subjects watched muted movies with subtitles (auditory-ignoring/visual distraction) and were compared with DPOAEs recorded while subjects counted the same tones (auditory-attending) as in Experiment 1. In both Experiments 1 and 2, the absolute level of the averaged DPOAEs recorded during the auditory-ignoring condition was statistically higher than that recorded in the auditory-attending condition. Efferent-induced rapid adaptation was evident in all DPOAE contours, under all attention conditions, suggesting that two medial efferent processes act independently to determine rapid adaptation, which is unaffected by attention, and the overall DPOAE level, which is significantly affected by changes in the focus of attention.
corticofugal pathways; medial olivocochlear efferents; MOC; selective auditory attention; distortion product otoacoustic emission; DPOAE; human
Normal maturation of central auditory pathways is a precondition for the optimal development of speech and language skills in children. The temporal cortex gets acoustically tagged due to auditory stimulation and important changes occur in the higher auditory centers due to hearing loss of any type and degree. Cochlear implantation increases auditory sensitivity by direct electrical activation of auditory nerve fibers, enabling phonemic awareness, discrimination and identification ultimately yielding speech understanding. Early implantation stimulates a brain that has not been re-organized and will therefore be more receptive to auditory input and greater auditory capacity. Cortical potentials have enabled us to objectively study this phenomenon. To assess the outcomes of Cochlear implants on the auditory cortex by analyzing cortical auditory evoked potentials (CAEPs) in the habilitation period. This prospective clinical study was performed in 30 pre-lingual candidates with varied etiology of deafness who underwent cochlear implantation at our institute over the last 1 year. The study group had two cohorts (group-1: 0–8 years and group-2: 8–15 years) which included candidates with normal inner ear and no syndromes or handicaps. All implantees in the study group underwent CAEP testing at 6 months and 1 year post-implantation and comparison of the CAEP wave parameters (P1 amplitude, P1 latency and P1 morphology) were done between the two cohorts. In children Implanted early (group-1) there was an early onset rapid increase in P1 amplitude along with a decrease in P1 latency during the follow-up period. Significant change in the CAEP wave morphology was also notable in group-1 unlike in group-2. Candidates who experienced less than 3 years of auditory deprivation before implantation showed P1 latencies, which fell into the range of normal children within 6 months of habilitation. Children with more than 6 years of auditory deprivation, however, generally did not develop normal P1 latencies or morphology even after 1 year of habilitation. The overall outcome with CAEP was much better in group-1 as compared to group-2 and the observations were is in comparison with the existing world literature. The advent of CAEP has objectively proved beyond doubt that there is a critical age for stimulating the auditory brain via cochlear implantation. There is considerable evidence for a developmental sensitive period, during which the auditory cortex is highly plastic. If sensory input is deprived to the auditory system during this sensitive period, then the central auditory system is susceptible to large scale reorganization. Restoring input to the auditory system by Cochlear Implant at an early age can provide the stimulation necessary to preserve the auditory pathways. However, if auditory input is not restored until after this developmental period, then the cross-modal reorganized pathways may exhibits abnormal functional characteristics as observed in recorded P1 amplitude, latencies and morphologies of CAEPs.
Cochlear implants; Central auditory processing; Cortical auditory evoked potentials (CAEPs)
OBJECTIVE—Tinnitus may be caused by a lesion or
dysfunction at any level of the auditory system. This study explores
cochlear mechanics using otoacoustic emissions in patients with
tinnitus after head injury, in whom there seems to be evidence to
support dysfunction within the CNS.
METHODS—The study included 20 patients with
tinnitus and other auditory symptoms, such as hyperacusis and
difficulty in listening in background noise, after head injury, in the
presence of an "intact" auditory periphery (normal or near normal
audiometric thresholds). They were compared with 20 normal subjects and
12subjects with head injury, but without tinnitus, who had similar audiometric thresholds. In all subjects otoacoustic emissions, including transient click-evoked (TEOAEs) and spontaneous otoacoustic emissions (SOAEs), were recorded, and a test of efferent medial olivocochlear suppression, consisting of recording of TEOAEs under contralateral stimulation, was performed.
RESULTS—A significantly higher prevalence of SOAEs
(100%), higher TEOAE response amplitudes, and reduced
medial olivocochlear suppression in patients with tinnitus in
comparison with subjects without tinnitus have been found.
CONCLUSION—These findings have been interpreted to
be an extracochlear phenomenon, in which the reduction in central
efferent suppression of cochlear mechanics, leading to an increase in
cochlear amplifier gain, was subsequent to head injury. Auditory
symptoms in these patients seemed to constitute the "disinhibition
Purpose of review
This review covers papers published between 2010 and early 2011 that presented new findings on inner ear-efferents and their ability to modulate hair cell function.
Studies published within the review period have increased our understanding of efferent mechanisms on hair cells in the cochlear and vestibular sensory epithelium and provide insights on efferent contributions to the plasticity of bilateral auditory processing. The central nervous system controls the sensitivity of hair cells to physiological stimuli by regulating the gain of hair cell electromechanical amplification and modulating the efficiency of hair cell-8th nerve transmission. A notable advance in the past year has been animal and human studies that have examined the contribution of the olivocochlear efferents to sound localization particularly in a noisy environment.
Acoustic activation of olivocochlear fibers provides a clinical test for the integrity of the peripheral auditory system and has provided new understanding about the function and limitations of the cochlear amplifier. While similar tests may be possible in the efferent vestibular system they have not yet been developed. The structural and functional similarities of the sensory epithelia in the inner ear offer hope that testing procedures may be developed that will allow reliable testing of the vestibular hair cell function.
olivocochlear; hearing; efferent vestibular system; balance; descending control; bilateral integration
The cochlear inner hair cells synapse onto type I afferent terminal dendrites, constituting the main afferent pathway for auditory information flow. This pathway receives central control input from the lateral olivocochlear efferent neurons that release various neurotransmitters, among which dopamine (DA) plays a salient role. DA receptors activation exert a protective role in the over activation of the afferent glutamatergic synapses, which occurs when an animal is exposed to intense sound stimuli or during hypoxic events. However, the mechanism of action of DA at the cellular level is still not completely understood. In this work, we studied the actions of DA and its receptor agonists and antagonists on the voltage-gated sodium current (INa) in isolated cochlear afferent neurons of the rat to define the mechanisms of dopaminergic control of the afferent input in the cochlear pathway. Experiments were performed using the voltage and current clamp techniques in the whole-cell configuration in primary cultures of cochlear spiral ganglion neurons (SGNs). Recordings of the INa showed that DA receptor activation induced a significant inhibition of the peak current amplitude, leading to a significant decrease in cell excitability. Inhibition of the INa was produced by a phosphorylation of the sodium channels as shown by the use of phosphatase inhibitor that produced an inhibition analogous to that caused by DA receptor activation. Use of specific agonists and antagonists showed that inhibitory action of DA was mediated both by activation of D1- and D2-like DA receptors. The action of the D1- and D2-like receptors was shown to be mediated by a Gαs/AC/cAMP/PKA and Gαq/PLC/PKC pathways respectively. These results showed that DA receptor activation constitutes a significant modulatory input to SGNs, effectively modulating their excitability and information flow in the auditory pathway.
Santarelli et al. reveal that hearing impairments in patients carrying OPA1 missense mutations are the result of disordered synchrony in auditory nerve fibre activity owing to degeneration of terminal dendrites. Cochlear implantation improves speech perception and synchronous activation of auditory pathways in these patients by bypassing the lesion site.
Hearing impairment is the second most prevalent clinical feature after optic atrophy in dominant optic atrophy associated with mutations in the OPA1 gene. In this study we characterized the hearing dysfunction in OPA1-linked disorders and provided effective rehabilitative options to improve speech perception. We studied two groups of OPA1 subjects, one comprising 11 patients (seven males; age range 13–79 years) carrying OPA1 mutations inducing haploinsufficiency, the other, 10 subjects (three males; age range 5–58 years) carrying OPA1 missense mutations. Both groups underwent audiometric assessment with pure tone and speech perception evaluation, and otoacoustic emissions and auditory brainstem response recording. Cochlear potentials were recorded through transtympanic electrocochleography from the group of patients harbouring OPA1 missense mutations and were compared to recordings obtained from 20 control subjects with normal hearing and from 19 subjects with cochlear hearing loss. Eight patients carrying OPA1 missense mutations underwent cochlear implantation. Speech perception measures and electrically-evoked auditory nerve and brainstem responses were obtained after 1 year of cochlear implant use. Nine of 11 patients carrying OPA1 mutations inducing haploinsufficiency had normal hearing function. In contrast, all but one subject harbouring OPA1 missense mutations displayed impaired speech perception, abnormal brainstem responses and presence of otoacoustic emissions consistent with auditory neuropathy. In electrocochleography recordings, cochlear microphonic had enhanced amplitudes while summating potential showed normal latency and peak amplitude consistent with preservation of both outer and inner hair cell activities. After cancelling the cochlear microphonic, the synchronized neural response seen in both normally-hearing controls and subjects with cochlear hearing loss was replaced by a prolonged, low-amplitude negative potential that decreased in both amplitude and duration during rapid stimulation consistent with neural generation. The use of cochlear implant improved speech perception in all but one patient. Brainstem potentials were recorded in response to electrical stimulation in five of six subjects, whereas no compound action potential was evoked from the auditory nerve through the cochlear implant. These findings indicate that underlying the hearing impairment in patients carrying OPA1 missense mutations is a disordered synchrony in auditory nerve fibre activity resulting from neural degeneration affecting the terminal dendrites. Cochlear implantation improves speech perception and synchronous activation of auditory pathways by bypassing the site of lesion.
OPA1-related hearing impairment; auditory neuropathy; electrocochleography; cochlear implants; speech perception
Acoustic trauma often leads to loss of hearing of environmental sounds, tinnitus, in which a monotonous sound not actually present is heard, and/or hyperacusis, in which there is an abnormal sensitivity to sound. Research on hamsters has documented physiological effects of exposure to intense tones, including increased spontaneous neural activity in the dorsal cochlear nucleus. Such physiological changes should be accompanied by chemical changes, and those chemical changes associated with chronic effects should be present at long times after the intense sound exposure. Using a microdissection mapping procedure combined with a radiometric microassay, we have measured activities of choline acetyltransferase (ChAT), the enzyme responsible for synthesis of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, in the cochlear nucleus, superior olive, inferior colliculus, and auditory cortex of hamsters 5 months after exposure to an intense tone compared with control hamsters of the same age. In control hamsters, ChAT activities in auditory regions were never more than one-tenth of the ChAT activity in the facial nerve root, a bundle of myelinated cholinergic axons, in agreement with a modulatory rather than a dominant role of acetylcholine in hearing. Within auditory regions, relatively higher activities were found in granular regions of the cochlear nucleus, dorsal parts of the superior olive, and auditory cortex. In intense-tone-exposed hamsters, ChAT activities were significantly increased in the anteroventral cochlear nucleus granular region and the lateral superior olivary nucleus. This is consistent with some chronic upregulation of the cholinergic olivocochlear system influence on the cochlear nucleus after acoustic trauma.
acetylcholine; cochlear nucleus; granular regions; olivocochlear bundle; tinnitus
High doses of sodium salicylate (SS) have long been known to induce temporary hearing loss and tinnitus, effects attributed to cochlear dysfunction. However, our recent publications reviewed here show that SS can induce profound, permanent, and unexpected changes in the cochlea and central nervous system. Prolonged treatment with SS permanently decreased the cochlear compound action potential (CAP) amplitude in vivo. In vitro, high dose SS resulted in a permanent loss of spiral ganglion neurons and nerve fibers, but did not damage hair cells. Acute treatment with high-dose SS produced a frequency-dependent decrease in the amplitude of distortion product otoacoustic emissions and CAP. Losses were greatest at low and high frequencies, but least at the mid-frequencies (10-20 kHz), the mid-frequency band that corresponds to the tinnitus pitch measured behaviorally. In the auditory cortex, medial geniculate body and amygdala, high-dose SS enhanced sound-evoked neural responses at high stimulus levels, but it suppressed activity at low intensities and elevated response threshold. When SS was applied directly to the auditory cortex or amygdala, it only enhanced sound evoked activity, but did not elevate response threshold. Current source density analysis revealed enhanced current flow into the supragranular layer of auditory cortex following systemic SS treatment. Systemic SS treatment also altered tuning in auditory cortex and amygdala; low frequency and high frequency multiunit clusters up-shifted or down-shifted their characteristic frequency into the 10-20 kHz range thereby altering auditory cortex tonotopy and enhancing neural activity at mid-frequencies corresponding to the tinnitus pitch. These results suggest that SS-induced hyperactivity in auditory cortex originates in the central nervous system, that the amygdala potentiates these effects and that the SS-induced tonotopic shifts in auditory cortex, the putative neural correlate of tinnitus, arises from the interaction between the frequency-dependent losses in the cochlea and hyperactivity in the central nervous system.
sodium salicylate; auditory cortex; amygdala; medial geniculate body; auditory nerve; distortion product otoacoustic emission; tinnitus; startle reflex
Cochlear outer hair cells (OHCs) are remarkable, mechanically-active receptors that determine the exquisite sensitivity and frequency selectivity characteristic of the mammalian auditory system. While there are three to four times as many OHCs compared with inner hair cells, OHCs lack a significant afferent innervation and, instead, receive a rich efferent innervation from medial olivocochlear (MOC) efferent neurons. Activation of the MOC has been shown to exert a considerable suppressive effect over OHC activity. The precise function of these efferent tracts in auditory behavior, however, is the matter of considerable debate. The most frequent functions assigned to the MOC tracts are to protect the cochlea from traumatic damage associated with intense sound and to aid the detection of signals in noise. While considerable evidence shows that interruption of MOC activity exacerbates damage due to high-level sound exposure, the well characterized MOC physiology and evolutionary studies do not support such a role. Instead, a MOC protective effect is well explained as being a byproduct of the suppressive nature of MOC action on OHC mechanical behavior. A role in the enhancement of signals in noise backgrounds, on the other hand, is well supported by (1) an extensive physiological literature (2) examination of naturally occurring environmental acoustic conditions (3) recent data from multiple laboratories showing that the MOC plays a significant role in auditory selective attention by suppressing the response to unattended or ignored stimuli. This presentation will argue that, based on the extant literature combining the suppression of background noise through MOC-mediated rapid adaptation (RA) with the suppression of non-attended signals, in concert with the corticofugal pathways descending from the auditory cortex, the MOC system has one evolved function—to increase the signal-to-noise ratio, aiding in the detection of target signals. By contrast, the MOC system role in reducing noise damage and the effects of aging in the cochlea may well represent an exaptation, or evolutionary “spandrel”.
medial olivocochlear efferents; MOC; signal-to-noise ratio; protection from acoustic trauma; outer hair cells; OHC; corticofugal pathways; auditory attention
The vesicular glutamate transporters (VGLUTs) regulate storage and release of glutamate in the brain. In adult animals, the VGLUT1 and VGLUT2 isoforms are widely expressed and differentially distributed, suggesting that neural circuits exhibit distinct modes of glutamate regulation. Studies in rodents suggest that VGLUT1 and VGLUT2 mRNA expression patterns are partly complementary, with VGLUT1 expressed at higher levels in cortex and VGLUT2 prominent subcortically, but with overlapping distributions in some nuclei. In primates, VGLUT gene expression has not been previously studied in any part of the brain. The purposes of the present study were to document the regional expression of VGLUT1 and VGLUT2 mRNA in the auditory pathway through A1 in cortex, and to determine whether their distributions are comparable to rodents. In situ hybridization with antisense riboprobes revealed that VGLUT2 was strongly expressed by neurons in the cerebellum and most major auditory nuclei, including the dorsal and ventral cochlear nuclei, medial and lateral superior olivary nuclei, central nucleus of the inferior colliculus, sagulum, and all divisions of the medial geniculate. VGLUT1 was densely expressed in the hippocampus and ventral cochlear nuclei, and at reduced levels in other auditory nuclei. In auditory cortex, neurons expressing VGLUT1 were widely distributed in layers II – VI of the core, belt and parabelt regions. VGLUT2 was most strongly expressed by neurons in layers IIIb and IV, weakly by neurons in layers II – IIIa, and at very low levels in layers V – VI. The findings indicate that VGLUT2 is strongly expressed by neurons at all levels of the subcortical auditory pathway, and by neurons in the middle layers of cortex, whereas VGLUT1 is strongly expressed by most if not all glutamatergic neurons in auditory cortex and at variable levels among auditory subcortical nuclei. These patterns imply that VGLUT2 is the main vesicular glutamate transporter in subcortical and thalamocortical (TC) circuits, whereas VGLUT1 is dominant in cortico-cortical (CC) and cortico-thalamic (CT) systems of projections. The results also suggest that VGLUT mRNA expression patterns in primates are similar to rodents, and establishes a baseline for detailed studies of these transporters in selected circuits of the auditory system.
Non-invasive auditory brainstem responses (ABRs) are commonly used to assess cochlear pathology in both clinical and research environments. In the current study, we evaluated the relationship between ABR characteristics and more direct measures of cochlear function. We recorded ABRs and auditory nerve (AN) single-unit responses in seven chinchillas with noise induced hearing loss. ABRs were recorded for 1–8 kHz tone burst stimuli both before and several weeks after four hours of exposure to a 115 dB SPL, 50 Hz band of noise with a center frequency of 2 kHz. Shifts in ABR characteristics (threshold, wave I amplitude, and wave I latency) following hearing loss were compared to AN-fiber tuning curve properties (threshold and frequency selectivity) in the same animals. As expected, noise exposure generally resulted in an increase in ABR threshold and decrease in wave I amplitude at equal SPL. Wave I amplitude at equal sensation level (SL), however, was similar before and after noise exposure. In addition, noise exposure resulted in decreases in ABR wave I latency at equal SL and, to a lesser extent, at equal SPL. The shifts in ABR characteristics were significantly related to AN-fiber tuning curve properties in the same animal at the same frequency. Larger shifts in ABR thresholds and ABR wave I amplitude at equal SPL were associated with greater AN threshold elevation. Larger reductions in ABR wave I latency at equal SL, on the other hand, were associated with greater loss of AN frequency selectivity. This result is consistent with linear systems theory, which predicts shorter time delays for broader peripheral frequency tuning. Taken together with other studies, our results affirm that ABR thresholds and wave I amplitude provide useful estimates of cochlear sensitivity. Furthermore, comparisons of ABR wave I latency to normative data at the same SL may prove useful for detecting and characterizing loss of cochlear frequency selectivity.
Auditory brainstem response (ABR); auditory nerve; auditory threshold; frequency selectivity; hearing loss
Voltage-gated L-type Ca2+ channels (L-VGCCs) like CaV1.2 are assumed to play a crucial role for controlling release of trophic peptides including brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). In the inner ear of the adult mouse, besides the well-described L-VGCC CaV1.3, CaV1.2 is also expressed. Due to lethality of constitutive CaV1.2 knock-out mice, the function of this ion channel as well as its putative relationship to BDNF in the auditory system is entirely elusive. We recently described that BDNF plays a differential role for inner hair cell (IHC) vesicles release in normal and traumatized condition. To elucidate a presumptive role of CaV1.2 during this process, two tissue-specific conditional mouse lines were generated. To distinguish the impact of CaV1.2 on the cochlea from that on feedback loops from higher auditory centers CaV1.2 was deleted, in one mouse line, under the Pax2 promoter (CaV1.2Pax2) leading to a deletion in the spiral ganglion neurons, dorsal cochlear nucleus, and inferior colliculus. In the second mouse line, the Egr2 promoter was used for deleting CaV1.2 (CaV1.2Egr2) in auditory brainstem nuclei. In both mouse lines, normal hearing threshold and equal number of IHC release sites were observed. We found a slight reduction of auditory brainstem response wave I amplitudes in the CaV1.2Pax2 mice, but not in the CaV1.2Egr2 mice. After noise exposure, CaV1.2Pax2 mice had less-pronounced hearing loss that correlated with maintenance of ribbons in IHCs and less reduced activity in auditory nerve fibers, as well as in higher brain centers at supra-threshold sound stimulation. As reduced cochlear BDNF mRNA levels were found in CaV1.2Pax2 mice, we suggest that a CaV1.2-dependent step may participate in triggering part of the beneficial and deteriorating effects of cochlear BDNF in intact systems and during noise exposure through a pathway that is independent of CaV1.2 function in efferent circuits.
L-VGCCs; CaV1.2; inner ear; SOC; ABR; BDNF
Genetic tools available for the mouse make it a powerful model to study the modulation of cochlear function by descending control systems. Suppression of distortion product otoacoustic emission (DPOAE) amplitude by contralateral acoustic stimulation (CAS) provides a robust tool for noninvasively monitoring the strength of descending modulation, yet investigations in mice have been performed infrequently and only under anesthesia, a condition likely to reduce olivocochlear activation. Here, we characterize the contralateral olivocochlear reflex in the alert, unanesthetized mouse. Head-fixed mice were restrained between two closed acoustic systems, while an artifact rejection protocol minimized contamination from self-generated sounds and movements. In mice anesthetized with pentobarbital, ketamine or urethane, CAS at 80 dB SPL evoked, on average, a <1-dB change in DPOAE amplitude. In contrast, the mean CAS-induced DPOAE suppression in unanesthetized mice was nearly 8 dB. Experiments in mice with targeted deletion of the α9 subunit of the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor confirmed the contribution of the medial olivocochlear efferents to this phenomenon. These findings demonstrate the utility of the CAS assay in the unanesthetized mouse and highlight the adverse effects of anesthesia when probing the functional status of descending control pathways within the auditory system.
olivocochlear; corticofugal; arousal; attention; anesthesia; contralateral reflex; outer hair cell
The functional consequences of selectively lesioning the lateral olivocochlear efferent system in guinea pigs were studied. The lateral superior olive (LSO) contains the cell bodies of lateral olivocochlear neurons. Melittin, a cytotoxic chemical, was injected into the brain stem using stereotaxic coordinates and near-field evoked potentials to target the LSO. Brain stem histology revealed discrete damage to the LSO following the injections. Functional consequences of this damage were reflected in depressed amplitude of the compound action potential of the eighth nerve (CAP) following the lesion. Threshold sensitivity and N1 latencies were relatively unchanged. Onset adaptation of the cubic distortion product otoacoustic emission (DPOAE) was evident, suggesting a reasonably intact medial efferent system. The present results provide the first report of functional changes induced by isolated manipulation of the lateral efferent pathway. They also confirm the suggestion that changes in single-unit auditory nerve activity after cutting the olivocochlear bundle are probably a consequence of disrupting the more lateral of the two olivocochlear efferent pathways.
lateral superior olive; guinea pig; olivocochlear; compound action potential; distortion product otoacoustic emission