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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Perceptual Training Restores Impaired Cortical Temporal Processing Due to Lead Exposure.

  • Author(s): Zhu, Xiaoqing
  • Liu, Xia
  • Wei, Fanfan
  • Wang, Fang
  • Merzenich, Michael M
  • Schreiner, Christoph E
  • Sun, Xinde
  • Zhou, Xiaoming
  • et al.

Low-level lead exposure is a risk factor for cognitive and learning disabilities in children and has been specifically associated with deficits in auditory temporal processing that impair aural language and reading abilities. Here, we show that rats exposed to low levels of lead in early life display a significant behavioral impairment in an auditory temporal rate discrimination task. Lead exposure also results in a degradation of the neuronal repetition-rate following capacity and response synchronization in primary auditory cortex. A modified go/no-go repetition-rate discrimination task applied in adult animals for ∼50 days nearly restores to normal these lead-induced deficits in cortical temporal fidelity. Cortical expressions of parvalbumin, brain-derived neurotrophic factor, and NMDA receptor subunits NR2a and NR2b, which are down-regulated in lead-exposed animals, are also partially reversed with training. These studies in an animal model identify the primary auditory cortex as a novel target for low-level lead exposure and demonstrate that perceptual training can ameliorate lead-induced deficits in cortical discrimination between sound sequences.

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