Scanning Microscopy


Newborn kittens were treated with the aminoglycoside amikacin to produce a bilateral high frequency cochlear hearing loss. The degree and stability of hearing loss were confirmed by recording auditory brainstem evoked potentials (ABR audiograms). After maturation, cochleotopic frequency representation within primary auditory cortex (Al) was mapped using standard microelectrode recording techniques. The cochlear sensory epithelium was assessed with SEM and the pattern of damage compared with the ABR audiograms and cortical frequency maps.

Amikacin treatment resulted in various patterns of haircell damage towards the base of the cochlea. A relatively abrupt transition between damaged and undamaged haircell regions resulted in an ABR audiogram with normal threshold to low frequencies and a high frequency elevation with a steep cut-off slope. In the cortical map, low frequency representation was normal, but anterior areas contained only neurons tuned to a common frequency which corresponded to the frequency-place position of the boundary of the haircell lesion and to the cut-off frequency of the audiogram. A large transitional zone of the cochlear lesion correlated with a gradual cut-off slope to the audiogram and again a remapping of the anterior and normally high frequency area to a common lower frequency. Haircell loss or damage (i.e. disarray of stereocilia) in lower frequency regions of the cochlea correlated with a significant reorganization of the lower frequency bands in the cortical map.

We conclude from this study that the pattern of cochleotopic organization of the cortex is dependent on the pattern of activity in the ascending sensory pathway during early stages of development.

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