Dopamine Modulates Auditory Responses in the Inferior Colliculus in a Heterogeneous Manner

  • Joshua X. Gittelman
  • David J. Perkel
  • Christine V. PortforsEmail author
Research Article


Perception of complex sounds such as speech is affected by a variety of factors, including attention, expectation of reward, physiological state, and/or disorders, yet the mechanisms underlying this modulation are not well understood. Although dopamine is commonly studied for its role in reward-based learning and in disorders, multiple lines of evidence suggest that dopamine is also involved in modulating auditory processing. In this study, we examined the effects of dopamine application on neuronal response properties in the inferior colliculus (IC) of awake mice. Because the IC contains dopamine receptors and nerve terminals immunoreactive for tyrosine hydroxylase, we predicted that dopamine would modulate auditory responses in the IC. We recorded single-unit responses before, during, and after the iontophoretic application of dopamine using piggyback electrodes. We examined the effects of dopamine on firing rate, timing, and probability of bursting. We found that application of dopamine affected neural responses in a heterogeneous manner. In more than 80 % of the neurons, dopamine either increased (32 %) or decreased (50 %) firing rate, and the effects were similar on spontaneous and sound-evoked activity. Dopamine also either increased or decreased first spike latency and jitter in almost half of the neurons. In 3/28 neurons (11 %), dopamine significantly altered the probability of bursting. The heterogeneous effects of dopamine observed in the IC of awake mice were similar to effects observed in other brain areas. Our findings indicate that dopamine differentially modulates neural activity in the IC and thus may play an important role in auditory processing.


mouse iontophoresis midbrain D2 receptors 



We thank Zachary Mayko for help with data collection. This work was supported by National Science Foundation grant no. IOS-0920060 to CVP.


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Copyright information

© Association for Research in Otolaryngology 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joshua X. Gittelman
    • 1
  • David J. Perkel
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  • Christine V. Portfors
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.School of Biological SciencesWashington State UniversityVancouverUSA
  2. 2.Department of BiologyUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  3. 3.Department of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck SurgeryUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  4. 4.The Virginia Merrill Bloedel Hearing Research CenterUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA

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