Purkinje cell degeneration and control mice: responses of single units in the dorsal cochlear nucleus and the acoustic startle response

Hear Res. 2000 Oct;148(1-2):137-52. doi: 10.1016/s0378-5955(00)00147-7.


The cartwheel cell is the most numerous inhibitory interneuron of the dorsal cochlear nucleus (DCN). It is expected to be an important determinant of DCN function. To assess the contribution of the cartwheel cell, we examined the discharge characteristics of DCN neurons and behavioral measures in the Purkinje cell degeneration (pcd) mice, which lack cartwheel cells, and compared them to those of the control mice. Distortion product otoacoustic emissions and auditory brainstem-evoked response thresholds were similar between the two groups. Extracellularly recorded DCN single units in ketamine/xylazine-anesthetized mice were classified according to post-stimulus time histogram (PSTH) and excitatory-inhibitory response area (EI-area) schemes. PSTHs recorded in mouse DCN included chopper, pauser/buildup, onset, inhibited and nondescript types. EI-areas recorded included Types I, II, III, I/III, IV and V. There were no significant differences in the proportions of various unit types between the pcd and control mice. The pcd units had slightly lower thresholds to characteristic frequency tones; however, they had spontaneous rates, thresholds to noise, and maximum driven rates to noise that were similar to those of the control units. Pcd mice had smaller startle amplitudes, but startle latency, prepulse inhibition/augmentation and facilitation by a background tone were comparable between the two groups. From these results, we conclude that DCN function in response to relatively simple acoustic stimuli is minimally affected by the absence of the cartwheel cells. Future studies employing more complex and/or multimodal stimuli should help assess the role of the cartwheel cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Cochlear Nucleus / cytology
  • Cochlear Nucleus / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Inbred CBA
  • Nerve Degeneration / physiopathology*
  • Purkinje Cells / physiology*
  • Reference Values
  • Reflex, Startle / physiology*