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Keywords:

  • cortical maps;
  • plasticity;
  • cochlear lesions;
  • neuronal responses

Abstract

We examined the effect of unilateral restricted cochlear lesions in adult cats on the topographic representations (“maps”) of the lesioned and unlesioned cochleas in the primary auditory cortex (AI) contralateral to the lesioned cochlea. Frequency (tonotopic) maps were derived by conventional multineuron mapping procedures in anesthetized animals. In confirmation of a study in adult guinea pigs (Robertson and Irvine [1989] J. Comp. Neurol. 282:456–471), we found that 2–11 months after the unilateral cochlear lesion the map of the lesioned cochlea in the contralateral AI was altered so that the AI region in which frequencies with lesion-induced elevations in cochlear neural sensitivity would have been represented was occupied by an enlarged representation of lesion-edge frequencies (i.e., frequencies adjacent to those with elevated cochlear neural sensitivity). Along the tonotopic axis of AI the total representation of lesion-edge frequencies could extend up to ≈ 2.6 mm rostral to the area of normal representation of these frequencies. There was no topographic order within this enlarged representation. Examination of threshold sensitivity at the characteristic frequency (CF, frequency to which the neurons were most sensitive) in the reorganized regions of the map of the lesioned cochlea established that the changes in the map reflected a plastic reorganization rather than simply reflecting the residue of prelesion input.

In contrast to the change in the map of the lesioned contralateral cochlea, the map of the unlesioned ipsilateral cochlea did not differ from those in normal animals. Thus, in contrast to the normal very good congreuency between ipsilateral and contralateral AI maps, in the lesioned animals ipsilateral and contralateral maps differed in the region of AI in which there had been a reorganization of the map of the lesioned cochlea. Outside the region of contralateral map reorganization, ipsilateral and contralateral AI maps remained congruent within normal limits. The difference between the two maps in the region of contralateral map reorganization suggested, in light of the physiology of binaural interactions in the auditory pathway, that the cortical reorganization reflected subcortical changes.

Finally, response properties of neuronal clusters within the reorganized map of the lesioned cochlea were compared to normative data with respect to threshold sensitivity at CF, the size of frequency “response areas,” and response latencies. In the majority of cases, CF thresholds were similar to normative data. The frequency “response areas” were slightly less sharply tuned than normal, but not significantly. Response latencies were significantly shorter than normal in three animals and significantly longer in one animal. © 1993 Wiley-Liss, Inc.