Ageing-related changes in GABAergic inhibition in mouse auditory cortex, measured using in vitro flavoprotein autofluorescence imaging

J Physiol. 2016 Jan 1;594(1):207-21. doi: 10.1113/JP271221. Epub 2015 Dec 14.


Ageing is associated with hearing loss and changes in GABAergic signalling in the auditory system. We tested whether GABAergic signalling in an isolated forebrain preparation also showed ageing-related changes. A novel approach was used, whereby population imaging was coupled to quantitative pharmacological sensitivity. Sensitivity to GABAA blockade was inversely associated with age and cortical thickness, but hearing loss did not independently contribute to the change in GABAA ergic sensitivity. Redox states in the auditory cortex of young and aged animals were similar, suggesting that the differences in GABAA ergic sensitivity are unlikely to be due to differences in slice health. To examine ageing-related changes in the earliest stages of auditory cortical processing, population auditory cortical responses to thalamic afferent stimulation were studied in brain slices obtained from young and aged CBA/CAj mice (up to 28 months of age). Cortical responses were measured using flavoprotein autofluorescence imaging, and ageing-related changes in inhibition were assessed by measuring the sensitivity of these responses to blockade of GABAA receptors using bath-applied SR95531. The maximum auditory cortical response to afferent stimulation was not different between young and aged animals under control conditions, but responses to afferent stimulation in aged animals showed a significantly lower sensitivity to GABA blockade with SR95531. Cortical thickness, but not hearing loss, improved the prediction of all imaging variables when combined with age, particularly sensitivity to GABA blockade for the maximum response. To determine if the observed differences between slices from young and aged animals were due to differences in slice health, the redox state in the auditory cortex was assessed by measuring the FAD+/NADH ratio using fluorescence imaging. We found that this ratio is highly sensitive to known redox stressors such as H2 O2 and NaCN; however, no difference was found between young and aged animals. By using a new approach to quantitatively assess pharmacological sensitivity of population-level cortical responses to afferent stimulation, these data demonstrate that auditory cortical inhibition diminishes with ageing. Furthermore, these data establish a significant relationship between cortical thickness and GABAergic sensitivity, which had not previously been observed in an animal model of ageing.

MeSH terms

  • Aging / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Auditory Cortex / drug effects*
  • Auditory Cortex / growth & development
  • Auditory Cortex / metabolism
  • Flavin-Adenine Dinucleotide / metabolism
  • GABA Antagonists / pharmacology*
  • Mice
  • NAD / metabolism
  • Oxidative Stress


  • GABA Antagonists
  • NAD
  • Flavin-Adenine Dinucleotide