Efferent auditory pathways have been implicated in sound localization and its plasticity. We examined the role of the olivocochlear system (OC) in horizontal sound localization by the ferret and in localization learning following unilateral earplugging. Under anesthesia, adult ferrets underwent olivocochlear bundle section at the floor of the fourth ventricle, either at the midline or laterally (left). Lesioned and control animals were trained to localize 1 s and 40 ms amplitude-roved broadband noise stimuli from one of 12 loudspeakers. Neither type of lesion affected normal localization accuracy. All ferrets then received a left earplug and were tested and trained over 10 d. The plug profoundly disrupted localization. Ferrets in the control and lateral lesion groups improved significantly during subsequent training on the 1 s stimulus. No improvement (learning) occurred in the midline lesion group. Markedly poorer performance and failure to learn was observed with the 40 ms stimulus in all groups. Plug removal resulted in a rapid resumption of normal localization in all animals. Insertion of a subsequent plug in the right ear produced similar results to left earplugging. Learning in the lateral lesion group was independent of the side of the lesion relative to the earplug. Lesions in all reported cases were verified histologically. The results suggest the OC system is not needed for accurate localization, but that it is involved in relearning localization during unilateral conductive hearing loss.
|The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience
|Published - 16 Feb 2011