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Keywords:

  • auditory;
  • deafness;
  • gerbil;
  • reversal potential;
  • synaptic currents

Abstract

Bilateral cochlear ablation leads to a profound weakening of synaptic inhibition within the inferior colliculus (IC) of gerbils [Vale & Sanes (2000) J. Neurosci., 20, 1912–1921]. To examine whether unilateral deafening leads to similar functional alterations, we studied the effect of unilateral cochlear ablation on inhibitory synaptic properties both ipsilateral and contralateral to the deafened ear. Lateral lemniscal and commissure of the IC-evoked inhibitory postsynaptic currents (IPSCs) were recorded in an IC brain slice preparation using whole-cell and gramicidin perforated-patch electrodes in the presence of kynurenic acid. Unilateral cochlear ablation led to a 23 mV depolarizing shift in the IPSC equilibrium potential for IC neurons contralateral to the deafened ear, but only a 10 mV depolarization in the ipsilateral IC. Lateral lemniscal-evoked inhibitory synaptic conductance declined significantly in the ipsilateral and contralateral IC, whereas commissural-evoked inhibitory synaptic conductance declined only contralateral to the ablated cochlea. An analysis of paired-pulse facilitation showed that inhibitory transmitter release was more affected ipsilateral to the ablated cochlea. Thus, unilateral cochlear ablation modifies inhibitory synapses in the inferior colliculus, but these changes appear to be dominated by postsynaptic alterations in the contralateral IC, and by presynaptic changes in the ipsilateral IC.