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Severe and extensive neonatal hearing loss in cats results in auditory cortex plasticity that differentiates into two regions


Dr R. Rajan, as above.


We examined the response characteristics of primary auditory cortex (A1) neurons in adult cats partially but extensively deafened by ototoxic drugs 2–8 days after birth. The damage evoked extensive A1 topographic map reorganization as also found by others, but a novel finding was that in the majority of cats with low-frequency edges to the cochlear lesion, the area of reorganization segregated into two areas expressing the same novel frequency inputs but differentiated by neuronal sensitivity and responsiveness. Immediately adjacent to normal A1 is an approximately 1.2-mm-wide area of reorganization in which sensitivity and responsiveness to sound are similar to that in normal A1 in the same animals and in unlesioned adult animals. Extending further into deprived A1 is a more extensive area of reorganization where neurons have poorer sensitivity and responsiveness to new inputs. These two areas did not differ in response-area bandwidth and response latency. We interpret these novel changes as the cortical consequences of severe receptor organ lesions extending to low-frequency cochlear regions. We speculate that the two areas of A1 reorganization may reflect differences in the transcortical spatial distribution of thalamo-cortical and horizontal intracortical connections. Qualitatively similar changes in response properties have been seen after retinal lesions producing large areas of visual cortical reorganization, suggesting they might be a general consequence of receptor lesions that deprive large regions of cortex of normal input. These effects may have perceptual implications for the use of cochlear implants in patients with residual low-frequency hearing.