Age-related changes in the inhibitory response properties of dorsal cochlear nucleus output neurons: role of inhibitory inputs

J Neurosci. 2005 Nov 23;25(47):10952-9. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2451-05.2005.


Age-related hearing loss frequently results in a loss in the ability to discriminate speech signals, especially in noise. This is attributable, in part, to a loss in temporal resolving power and ability to adjust dynamic range. Circuits in the adult dorsal cochlear nucleus (DCN) have been shown to preserve signal in background noise. Fusiform cells, major DCN output neurons, receive focused glycinergic inputs from tonotopically aligned vertical cells that also project to the ventral cochlear nucleus. Glycine-mediated inhibition onto fusiform cells results in decreased tone-evoked activity as intensity is increased at frequencies adjacent to characteristic frequency (CF). DCN output is thus shaped by glycinergic inhibition, which can be readily assessed in recordings from fusiform cells. Previous DCN studies suggest an age-related loss of markers for glycinergic neurotransmission. The present study postulated that response properties of aged fusiform cells would show a loss of inhibition, resembling conditions observed with glycine receptor blockade. The functional impact of aging was examined by comparing response properties from units meeting fusiform-cell criteria in young and aged rats. Fusiform cells in aged animals displayed significantly higher maximum discharge rates to CF tones than those recorded from young-adult animals. Fusiform cells of aged rats displayed significantly fewer nonmonotonic CF rate-level functions and an age-related change in temporal response properties. These findings are consistent with an age-related loss of glycinergic input, likely from vertical cells, and with findings from other sensory aging studies suggesting a selective age-related decrement in inhibitory amino acid neurotransmitter function.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Cell Count
  • Cochlea / cytology
  • Cochlear Nucleus / cytology
  • Cochlear Nucleus / physiology*
  • Differential Threshold
  • Evoked Potentials, Auditory, Brain Stem / physiology
  • Glycine / metabolism
  • Hair Cells, Auditory / cytology
  • Neural Inhibition / physiology*
  • Neurons, Efferent / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred F344
  • Reaction Time / physiology


  • Glycine