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Effects of Unilateral Acoustic Trauma on Tinnitus-Related Spontaneous Activity in the Inferior Colliculus

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Abstract

This study describes the long-term effects of sound-induced cochlear trauma on spontaneous discharge rates in the central nucleus of the inferior colliculus (ICC). As in previous studies, single-unit recordings in Sprague–Dawley rats revealed pervasive increases in spontaneous discharge rates. Based on differences in their sources of input, it was hypothesized that physiologically defined neural populations of the auditory midbrain would reveal the brainstem sources that dictate ICC hyperactivity. Abnormal spontaneous activity was restricted to target neurons of the ventral cochlear nucleus. Nearly identical patterns of hyperactivity were observed in the contralateral and ipsilateral ICC. The elevation in spontaneous activity extended to frequencies well below and above the region of maximum threshold shift. This lack of frequency organization suggests that ICC hyperactivity may be influenced by regions of the brainstem that are not tonotopically organized. Sound-induced hyperactivity is often observed in animals with behavioral signs of tinnitus. Prior to electrophysiological recording, rats were screened for tinnitus by measuring gap pre-pulse inhibition of the acoustic startle reflex (GPIASR). Rats with positive phenotypes did not exhibit unique patterns of ICC hyperactivity. This ambiguity raises concerns regarding animal behavioral models of tinnitus. If our screening procedures were valid, ICC hyperactivity is observed in animals without behavioral indications of the disorder. Alternatively, if the perception of tinnitus is strictly linked to ongoing ICC hyperactivity, our current behavioral approach failed to provide a reliable assessment of tinnitus state.

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Correspondence to Bradford J. May.

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Ropp, TJ.F., Tiedemann, K.L., Young, E.D. et al. Effects of Unilateral Acoustic Trauma on Tinnitus-Related Spontaneous Activity in the Inferior Colliculus. JARO 15, 1007–1022 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10162-014-0488-2

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