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Theses Doctoral

A Cerebellum-like Circuit in the Auditory System Cancels Self-Generated Sounds

Singla, Shobhit

The first stage of mammalian auditory processing occurs within the dorsal and ventral divisions of the cochlear nucleus. The dorsal cochlear nucleus (DCN) is remarkable in that it shares striking similarities with the cerebellum in terms of its development, gene expression patterns, and anatomical organization. Notably, principal cells of the DCN integrate auditory nerve input with a diverse array of signals conveyed by a mossy fiber- granule cell system. Yet how the elaborate cerebellum-like circuitry of DCN contributes to early auditory processing has been a longstanding puzzle. The work in this thesis shows that, in mice, that the DCN functions to cancel responses to self-generated sounds. While the DCN and ventral cochlear nucleus (VCN) neurons respond similarly to externally-generated acoustic stimuli, sounds generated by licking behavior evoke much weaker responses in DCN than in VCN. Recordings in deafened mice revealed non- auditory signals related to licking in Purkinje-like neurons of DCN. Moreover, silencing somatosensory mossy fiber inputs revealed prominent DCN responses to sounds generated by licking, suggesting that these inputs normally function to cancel responses to self-generated sounds. Finally, I show that this cancellation is not fixed, but involves an adaptive process whereby neural responses correlated with the animal’s own behavior are gradually reduced. Together, these findings suggest that the fundamental process of distinguishing self-generated from external stimuli begins at the very first stage of mammalian auditory processing. Related adaptive filtering functions have been described for cerebellum-like sensory structures in fish and hypothesized for the mammalian cerebellum. Hence our findings also suggest that, despite their wide phylogenetic separation, different cerebellum-like structures and the cerebellum itself may all perform a similar computation.


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More Information

Academic Units
Neurobiology and Behavior
Thesis Advisors
Sawtell, Nathaniel B.
Ph.D., Columbia University
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