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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Primary auditory cortical responses to electrical stimulation of the thalamus

  • Author(s): Atencio, CA
  • Shih, JY
  • Schreiner, CE
  • Cheung, SW
  • et al.

Cochlear implant electrical stimulation of the auditory system to rehabilitate deafness has been remarkably successful. Its deployment requires both an intact auditory nerve and a suitably patent cochlear lumen. When disease renders prerequisite conditions impassable, such as in neurofibromatosis type II and cochlear obliterans, alternative treatment targets are considered. Electrical stimulation of the cochlear nucleus and midbrain in humans has delivered encouraging clinical outcomes, buttressing the promise of central auditory prostheses to mitigate deafness in those who are not candidates for cochlear implantation. In this study we explored another possible implant target: the auditory thalamus. In anesthetized cats, we first presented pure tones to determine frequency preferences of thalamic and cortical sites. We then electrically stimulated tonotopically organized thalamic sites while recording from primary auditory cortical sites using a multichannel recording probe. Cathodeleading biphasic thalamic stimulation thresholds that evoked cortical responses were much lower than published accounts of cochlear and midbrain stimulation. Cortical activation dynamic ranges were similar to those reported for cochlear stimulation, but they were narrower than those found through midbrain stimulation. Our results imply that thalamic stimulation can activate auditory cortex at low electrical current levels and suggest an auditory thalamic implant may be a viable central auditory prosthesis. © 2014 the American Physiological Society.

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