Dopaminergic projections of the subparafascicular thalamic nucleus to the auditory brainstem

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Abstract

Neuromodulators can alter the response properties of sensory neurons, including those in the auditory system. Dopamine, which plays a major role in reward and movement, has been shown to alter neural responses in the auditory brainstem and midbrain. Recently we identified the subparafascicular thalamic nucleus (SPF), part of the A11 dopaminergic cell group, as the source of dopamine to the inferior colliculus (IC). The superior olivary complex (SOC) is also a likely target of dopaminergic projections from the SPF because it receives projections from the SPF and contains fibers and terminals immunoreactive for tyrosine hydroxylase, the rate limiting enzyme in dopamine synthesis. However, it is unknown if the projections from the SPF to SOC are dopaminergic, and if single neurons in the SPF project to both the IC and SOC. Using anterograde tracing combined with fluorescent immunohistochemistry, we found that the SPF sends dopaminergic projections to the superior paraolivary nucleus and the medial nucleus of the trapezoid body, but not the lateral superior olive. We confirmed these projections using a retrograde tracer. By making dual retrograde deposits in the IC and SOC, we found that individual dopaminergic cells innervate both the IC and SOC. These results suggest dopaminergic innervation, likely released in a context dependent manner, occurs at multiple levels of the auditory pathway.

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