Developmental spontaneous activity promotes formation of sensory domains, frequency tuning and proper gain in central auditory circuits

Cell Rep. 2022 Nov 15;41(7):111649. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2022.111649.


Neurons that process sensory information exhibit bursts of electrical activity during development, providing early training to circuits that will later encode similar features of the external world. In the mammalian auditory system, this intrinsically generated activity emerges from the cochlea prior to hearing onset, but its role in maturation of auditory circuitry remains poorly understood. We show that selective suppression of cochlear supporting cell spontaneous activity disrupts patterned burst firing of central auditory neurons without affecting cell survival or acoustic thresholds. However, neurons in the inferior colliculus of these mice exhibit enhanced acoustic sensitivity and broader frequency tuning, resulting in wider isofrequency laminae. Despite this enhanced neural responsiveness, total tone-responsive regions in the auditory cortex are substantially smaller. Thus, disruption of pre-hearing cochlear activity causes profound changes in neural encoding of sound, with important implications for restoration of hearing in individuals who experience reduced activity during this critical developmental period.

Keywords: CP: Neuroscience; auditory cortex; auditory system; cochlea; hair cells; inferior colliculus; neural development; spontaneous activity; supporting cells.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Auditory Cortex* / physiology
  • Cochlea
  • Hearing
  • Inferior Colliculi* / physiology
  • Mammals
  • Mice
  • Neurons / physiology