Bimodal stimulus timing-dependent plasticity in primary auditory cortex is altered after noise exposure with and without tinnitus

J Neurophysiol. 2015 Dec;114(6):3064-75. doi: 10.1152/jn.00319.2015. Epub 2015 Aug 19.


Central auditory circuits are influenced by the somatosensory system, a relationship that may underlie tinnitus generation. In the guinea pig dorsal cochlear nucleus (DCN), pairing spinal trigeminal nucleus (Sp5) stimulation with tones at specific intervals and orders facilitated or suppressed subsequent tone-evoked neural responses, reflecting spike timing-dependent plasticity (STDP). Furthermore, after noise-induced tinnitus, bimodal responses in DCN were shifted from Hebbian to anti-Hebbian timing rules with less discrete temporal windows, suggesting a role for bimodal plasticity in tinnitus. Here, we aimed to determine if multisensory STDP principles like those in DCN also exist in primary auditory cortex (A1), and whether they change following noise-induced tinnitus. Tone-evoked and spontaneous neural responses were recorded before and 15 min after bimodal stimulation in which the intervals and orders of auditory-somatosensory stimuli were randomized. Tone-evoked and spontaneous firing rates were influenced by the interval and order of the bimodal stimuli, and in sham-controls Hebbian-like timing rules predominated as was seen in DCN. In noise-exposed animals with and without tinnitus, timing rules shifted away from those found in sham-controls to more anti-Hebbian rules. Only those animals with evidence of tinnitus showed increased spontaneous firing rates, a purported neurophysiological correlate of tinnitus in A1. Together, these findings suggest that bimodal plasticity is also evident in A1 following noise damage and may have implications for tinnitus generation and therapeutic intervention across the central auditory circuit.

Keywords: multisensory integration; primary auditory cortex; somatosensory; spike timing-dependent plasticity; tinnitus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Auditory Cortex / physiology*
  • Cochlear Nucleus / physiology*
  • Evoked Potentials, Auditory, Brain Stem*
  • Evoked Potentials, Somatosensory*
  • Female
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Neuronal Plasticity*
  • Noise
  • Tinnitus / physiopathology*