Sound information is transmitted from the cochlea to the brain by different subtypes of spiral ganglion neurons (SGN), which show varying degrees of vulnerbility under pathological conditions.
It remains unclear how information from these SGNs reassemble among target neurons in the cochlear nucleus (CN) at the auditory nerve (AN) central synapses, and how different synapses change during hearing loss. Combining immunohistochemistry with electrophysiology, we investigated the giant endbulb of Held synapses and their postsynaptic bushy neurons in mice under normal hearing and age-related hearing loss (ARHL). We found that calretinin-expressing and non-calretinin-expressing endbulbs converge at continuously different ratios onto bushy neurons with varying physiological properties.
Endbulbs degenerate during ARHL, and the degeneration is more severe in non-calretinin-expressing synapses, which correlates with a gradual decrease in neuronal subpopulation predominantly innervated by these inputs. Our findings suggest that biased AN central synaptopathy and shifted CN neuronal composition underlie reduced auditory input and altered central auditory processing during ARHL.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience