Tinnitus has been associated with enhanced central gain manifested by increased spontaneous activity and sound-evoked firing rates of principal neurons at various stations of the auditory pathway. Yet, the mechanisms leading to these modifications are not well understood. In a recent in vivo study, we demonstrated that stimulus-timing-dependent bimodal plasticity mediates modifications of spontaneous and tone-evoked responses of fusiform cells in the dorsal cochlear nucleus (DCN) of the guinea pig. Fusiform cells from sham animals showed primarily Hebbian learning rules while noise-exposed animals showed primarily anti-Hebbian rules, with broadened profiles for the animals with behaviorally verified tinnitus (Koehler SD, Shore SE. J Neurosci 33: 19647-19656, 2013a). In the present study we show that well-timed bimodal stimulation induces alterations in the rate-level functions (RLFs) of fusiform cells. The RLF gains and maximum amplitudes show Hebbian modifications in sham and no-tinnitus animals but anti-Hebbian modifications in noise-exposed animals with evidence for tinnitus. These findings suggest that stimulus-timing bimodal plasticity produced by the DCN circuitry is a contributing mechanism to enhanced central gain associated with tinnitus.
Keywords: dorsal cochlear nucleus; multisensory integration; neural plasticity; rate-level functions; tinnitus.
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