Alterations in the spontaneous discharge patterns of single units in the dorsal cochlear nucleus following intense sound exposure

Hear Res. 2009 Oct;256(1-2):104-17. doi: 10.1016/j.heares.2009.07.006. Epub 2009 Jul 19.


Electrophysiological recordings in the dorsal cochlear nucleus (DCN) were conducted to determine the nature of changes in single unit activity following intense sound exposure and how they relate to changes in multiunit activity. Single and multiunit spontaneous discharge rates and auditory response properties were recorded from the left DCN of tone exposed and control hamsters. The exposure condition consisted of a 10 kHz tone presented in the free-field at a level of 115 dB for 4h. Recordings conducted at 5-6 days post-exposure revealed several important changes. Increases in multiunit spontaneous neural activity were observed at surface and subsurface levels of the DCN of exposed animals, reaching a peak at intermediate depths corresponding to the fusiform cell layer and upper level of the deep layer. Extracellular spikes from single units in the DCN of both control and exposed animals characteristically displayed either M- or W-shaped waveforms, although the proportion of units with M-shaped spikes was higher in exposed animals than in controls. W-shaped spikes showed significant increases in the duration of their major peaks after exposure, suggestive of changes in the intrinsic membrane properties of neurons. Spike amplitudes were not found to be significantly increased in exposed animals. Spontaneous discharge rates of single units increased significantly from 8.7 spikes/s in controls to 15.9 spikes/s after exposure. Units with the highest activity in exposed animals displayed type III electrophysiological responses patterns, properties usually attributed to fusiform cells. Increases in spontaneous discharge rate were significantly larger when the comparison was limited to a subset of units having type III frequency response patterns. There was an increase in the incidence of simple spiking activity as well as in the incidence of spontaneous bursting activity, although the incidence of spikes occurring in bursts was low in both animal groups (i.e., <30%). Despite this low incidence, approximately half of the increase in spontaneous activity in exposed animals was accounted for by an increase in bursting activity. Finally, we found no evidence of an increase in the mean number of spontaneously active units in electrode penetrations of exposed animals compared to those in controls. Overall our results indicate that the increase in multiunit activity observed at the DCN surface reflects primarily an increase in the spontaneous discharge rates of single units below the DCN surface, of which approximately half was contributed by spikes in bursts. The highest level of hyperactivity was observed among units having the response properties most commonly attributed to fusiform cells.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation*
  • Animals
  • Auditory Pathways / physiology*
  • Cochlear Nucleus / physiology*
  • Cricetinae
  • Evoked Potentials, Auditory, Brain Stem*
  • Male
  • Mesocricetus
  • Neuronal Plasticity*
  • Synaptic Transmission*
  • Time Factors