Age-related hearing loss (presbycusis) affects ∼35% of humans older than sixty-five years. Symptoms of presbycusis include impaired discrimination of sounds with fast temporal features, such as those present in speech. Such symptoms likely arise because of central auditory system plasticity, but the underlying components are incompletely characterized. The rapid spiking inhibitory interneurons that co-express the calcium binding protein Parvalbumin (PV) are involved in shaping neural responses to fast spectrotemporal modulations. Here, we examined cortical PV expression in the C57bl/6 (C57) mouse, a strain commonly studied as a presbycusis model. We examined if PV expression showed auditory cortical field- and layer-specific susceptibilities with age. The percentage of PV-expressing cells relative to Nissl-stained cells was counted in the anterior auditory field (AAF) and primary auditory cortex (A1) in three age groups: young (1-2 months), middle-aged (6-8 months) and old (14-20 months). There were significant declines in the percentage of cells expressing PV at a detectable level in layers I-IV of both A1 and AAF in the old mice compared to young mice. In layers V-VI, there was an increase in the percentage of PV-expressing cells in the AAF of the old group. There were no changes in percentage of PV-expressing cells in layers V-VI of A1. These data suggest cortical layer(s)- and field-specific susceptibility of PV+ cells with presbycusis. The results are consistent with the hypothesis that a decline in inhibitory neurotransmission, particularly in the superficial cortical layers, occurs with presbycusis.
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