Single olivocochlear neurons in the guinea pig. II. Response plasticity due to noise conditioning

J Neurophysiol. 1998 Jun;79(6):3088-97. doi: 10.1152/jn.1998.79.6.3088.


Previous studies have shown that daily, moderate-level sound exposure, or conditioning, can reduce injury from a subsequent high-level noise exposure. We tested the hypothesis that this conditioning produces an increased activity in the olivocochlear efferent reflex, a reflex known to provide protection to the cochlea. Guinea pigs were conditioned by a 10-day intermittent exposure to 2-4 kHz noise at 85 dB sound pressure level. This conditioning is known to reduce damage from a subsequent high-level exposure to the same noise band. Responses to monaural and binaural sound were recorded from single medial olivocochlear (MOC) efferent neurons, and data from conditioned animals were compared with those obtained from unexposed controls. MOC neurons were classified by their response to noise bursts in the ipsilateral or contralateral ears as ipsi units, contra units, or either-ear units. There were no significant differences in the distributions of these unit types between control and conditioned animals. There were also no differences in other responses to monaural stimuli, including the distribution of characteristic frequencies (CFs), the sharpness of tuning, or thresholds at the CF. For binaural sound at high levels, particularly relevant to sound-evoked activation of the MOC reflex during acoustic overstimulation, the firing rates of MOC neurons with CFs just above the conditioning band showed slight (but statistically significant) elevations relative to control animals. Frequency regions just above the conditioning band also demonstrated maximum conditioning-related protection; thus protection could be due, in part, to long-term changes in MOC discharge rates. For binaural sound at low levels, MOC firing rates in conditioned animals also were increased significantly relative to controls. Again, increases were largest for neurons with CFs just above the conditioning band. For equivalent monaural sound, rates were not significantly increased; thus, conditioning appears to increase binaural facilitation by opposite-ear sound. These data indicate that MOC neurons show long-term plasticity in acoustic responsiveness that is dependent on their acoustic history.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Animals
  • Cochlea / cytology*
  • Cochlea / physiology*
  • Conditioning, Psychological / physiology*
  • Electrophysiology
  • Evoked Potentials, Auditory / physiology
  • Female
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Male
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Noise*
  • Olivary Nucleus / cytology*
  • Olivary Nucleus / physiology*