Short-term plasticity and auditory processing in the ventral cochlear nucleus of normal and hearing-impaired animals.

Division of Otolaryngology and Neuroscience Program, 3C120 School of Medicine, 30 North, 1900 East, Salt Lake City, University of Utah, UT 84132, USA.
Hearing research (Impact Factor: 2.85). 05/2011; 279(1-2):131-9. DOI: 10.1016/j.heares.2011.04.018
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The dynamics of synaptic transmission between neurons plays a major role in neural information processing. In the cochlear nucleus, auditory nerve synapses have a relatively high release probability and show pronounced synaptic depression that, in conjunction with the variability of interspike intervals, shapes the information transmitted to the postsynaptic cells. Cellular mechanisms have been best analyzed at the endbulb synapses, revealing that the recent history of presynaptic activity plays a complex, non-linear, role in regulating release. Emerging evidence suggests that the dynamics of synaptic function differs according to the target neuron within the cochlear nucleus. One consequence of hearing loss is changes in evoked release at surviving auditory nerve synapses, and in some situations spontaneous release is greatly enhanced. In contrast, even with cochlear ablation, postsynaptic excitability is less affected. The existing evidence suggests that different modes of hearing loss can result in different dynamic patterns of synaptic transmission between the auditory nerve and postsynaptic neurons. These changes in dynamics in turn will affect the efficacy with which different kinds of information about the acoustic environment can be processed by the parallel pathways in the cochlear nucleus.

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    ABSTRACT: Endbulb of Held terminals of auditory nerve fibers (ANF) transmit auditory information at hundreds per second to bushy cells (BCs) in the anteroventral cochlear nucleus (AVCN). Here, we studied the structure and function of endbulb synapses in mice that lack the presynaptic scaffold bassoon and exhibit reduced ANF input into the AVCN. Endbulb terminals and active zones were normal in number and vesicle complement. Postsynaptic densities, quantal size and vesicular release probability were increased while vesicle replenishment and the standing pool of readily releasable vesicles were reduced. These opposing effects canceled each other out for the first evoked EPSC, which showed unaltered amplitude. We propose that ANF activity deprivation drives homeostatic plasticity in the AVCN involving synaptic upscaling and increased intrinsic BC excitability. In vivo recordings from individual mutant BCs demonstrated a slightly improved response at sound onset compared to ANF, likely reflecting the combined effects of ANF convergence and homeostatic plasticity. Further, we conclude that bassoon promotes vesicular replenishment and, consequently, a large standing pool of readily releasable synaptic vesicles at the endbulb synapse.
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Paul B Manis