Mice with behavioral evidence of tinnitus exhibit dorsal cochlear nucleus hyperactivity because of decreased GABAergic inhibition

Jason W. Middleton, Taro Kiritani, Courtney Pedersen, Jeremy G. Turner, Gordon M.G. Shepherd, Thanos Tzounopoulos*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

196 Scopus citations


Tinnitus has been associated with increased spontaneous and evoked activity, increased neural synchrony, and reorganization of tonotopic maps of auditory nuclei. However, the neurotransmitter systems mediating these changes are poorly understood. Here, we developed an in vitro assay that allows us to evaluate the roles of excitation and inhibition in determining the neural correlates of tinnitus. To measure the magnitude and spatial spread of evoked circuit activity, we used flavoprotein autofluorescence (FA) imaging, a metabolic indicator of neuronal activity. We measured FA responses after electrical stimulation of glutamatergic axons in slices containing the dorsal cochlear nucleus, an auditory brain-stem nucleus hypothesized to be crucial in the triggering and modulation of tinnitus. FA imaging in dorsal cochlear nucleus brain slices from mice with behavioral evidence of tinnitus (tinnitus mice) revealed enhanced evoked FA response at the site of stimulation and enhanced spatial propagation of FA response to surrounding sites. Blockers of GABAergic inhibition enhanced FA response to a greater extent in control mice than in tinnitus mice. Blockers of excitation decreased FA response to a similar extent in tinnitus and control mice. These findings indicate that auditory circuits in mice with behavioral evidence of tinnitus respond to stimuli in a more robust and spatially distributed manner because of a decrease in GABAergic inhibition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7601-7606
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number18
StatePublished - May 3 2011


  • Excitability
  • GABA inhibition
  • In vitro imaging
  • Neurotransmitters

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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