Choline acetyltransferase activity in the hamster central auditory system and long-term effects of intense tone exposure

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Acoustic trauma often leads to loss of hearing of environmental sounds, tinnitus, in which a monotonous sound not actually present is heard, and/or hyperacusis, in which there is an abnormal sensitivity to sound. Research on hamsters has documented physiological effects of exposure to intense tones, including increased spontaneous neural activity in the dorsal cochlear nucleus. Such physiological changes should be accompanied by chemical changes, and those chemical changes associated with chronic effects should be present at long times after the intense sound exposure. Using a microdissection mapping procedure combined with a radiometric microassay, we have measured activities of choline acetyltransferase (ChAT), the enzyme responsible for synthesis of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, in the cochlear nucleus, superior olive, inferior colliculus, and auditory cortex of hamsters 5 months after exposure to an intense tone compared with control hamsters of the same age. In control hamsters, ChAT activities in auditory regions were never more than one-tenth of the ChAT activity in the facial nerve root, a bundle of myelinated cholinergic axons, in agreement with a modulatory rather than a dominant role of acetylcholine in hearing. Within auditory regions, relatively higher activities were found in granular regions of the cochlear nucleus, dorsal parts of the superior olive, and auditory cortex. In intense-tone-exposed hamsters, ChAT activities were significantly increased in the anteroventral cochlear nucleus granular region and the lateral superior olivary nucleus. This is consistent with some chronic upregulation of the cholinergic olivocochlear system influence on the cochlear nucleus after acoustic trauma. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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