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Synaptic transmission in the auditory brainstem and midbrain

Principal investigator: Prof.Dr. Gerard Borst

How do we recognize sounds? Specialized neurons in the auditory system are activated by some sounds but not by others. We are interested to identify the cellular mechanisms that are responsible for this. We mainly investigate this in the inferior colliculus, the medial superior olive (MSO) and in the medial nucleus of the trapezoid body (MNTB).

Three ongoing projects are:

-The calyx of Held synapse is a fast auditory relay in the MNTB of the auditory brainstem. In the adult, each principal cell of the MNTB is innervated by a single, giant, axosomatic terminal called the calyx of Held. We study how this one-on-one relation arises during development, using in vivo two-photon imaging and patch-clamp techniques.

-The medial superior olive is the first nucleus where inputs from both ears meet. Neurons in the MSO act as coincidence detectors: if excitatory inputs from both ears arrives within a narrow temporal window, the EPSPs will sum and the neuron will fire. We investigate the specializations that allow these cells to do this with such precision.

-The inferior colliculus integrates inputs from the brainstem auditory nuclei. Using in vivo patch clamp recordings and two-photon calcium imaging, we study how the integration of synaptic inputs by the cells in the inferior colliculus determines their tuning properties, and we study whether a change in firing properties is involved in tinnitus.

Recent publications

  • Tanke, N., Borst, J.G.G. and Houweling, A.R. (2018) Single-cell stimulation in barrel cortex influences psychophysical detection performance. J Neurosci. 38: 2057-2068 (pubmed).
  • Wang, T., van Woerden, G.M., Elgersma, Y. and Borst, J.G.G. (2018) Enhanced transmission at the calyx of Held synapse in a mouse model for Angelman syndrome. Front. Cell. Neurosci. 11: 418, doi: 10.3389/fncel.2017.00418 (pubmed).
  • Plau┼íka, A., van der Heijden, M. and Borst, J.G.G. (2017) A test of the stereausis hypothesis for sound localization in mammals. J Neurosci. 37: 7278-7289 (pubmed).
  • Sierksma, M.C. and Borst, J.G.G. (2017) Resistance to action potential depression of a rat axon terminal in vivo. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 114: 4249-4254 (pubmed).
  • Sierksma, M.C., Tedja, M.S. and Borst, J.G.G. (2017) In vivo matching of postsynaptic excitability with spontaneous synaptic inputs during formation of the rat calyx of Held synapse. J. Physiol. 595: 207-231 (pubmed).