Dorsal Cochlear Nucleus of the Rat: Representation of Complex Sounds in Ears Damaged by Acoustic Trauma

Yang Li, Tessa Jonne F. Ropp, Bradford J. May, Eric D. Young

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Acoustic trauma damages the cochlea but secondarily modifies circuits of the central auditory system. Changes include decreases in inhibitory neurotransmitter systems, degeneration and rewiring of synaptic circuits, and changes in neural activity. Little is known about the consequences of these changes for the representation of complex sounds. Here, we show data from the dorsal cochlear nucleus (DCN) of rats with a moderate high-frequency hearing loss following acoustic trauma. Single-neuron recording was used to estimate the organization of neurons’ receptive fields, the balance of inhibition and excitation, and the representation of the spectra of complex broadband stimuli. The complex stimuli had random spectral shapes (RSSs), and the responses were fit with a model that allows the quality of the representation and its degree of linearity to be estimated. Tone response maps of DCN neurons in rat are like those in other species investigated previously, suggesting the same general organization of this nucleus. Following acoustic trauma, abnormal response types appeared. These can be interpreted as reflecting degraded tuning in auditory nerve fibers plus loss of inhibitory inputs in DCN. Abnormal types are somewhat more prevalent at later times (103–376 days) following the exposure, but not significantly so. Inhibition became weaker in post-trauma neurons that retained inhibitory responses but also disappeared in many neurons. The quality of the representation of spectral shape, measured by sensitivity to the spectral shapes of RSS stimuli, was decreased following trauma; in fact, neurons with abnormal response types responded mainly to overall stimulus level, and not spectral shape.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)487-505
Number of pages19
JournalJARO - Journal of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 3 2015


  • acoustic trauma
  • dorsal cochlear nucleus
  • inhibition
  • model
  • neuropathy
  • random spectral shape
  • rat
  • response map

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Sensory Systems


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