To examine ageing-related changes in the earliest stages of auditory cortical processing, population auditory cortical responses to thalamic afferent stimulation were studied in brain slices obtained from young and aged CBA/CAj mice (up to 28 months of age). Cortical responses were measured using flavoprotein autofluorescence imaging, and ageing-related changes in inhibition were assessed by measuring the sensitivity of these responses to blockade of GABAA receptors using bath-applied SR95531. The maximum auditory cortical response to afferent stimulation was not different between young and aged animals under control conditions, but responses to afferent stimulation in aged animals showed a significantly lower sensitivity to GABA blockade with SR95531. Cortical thickness, but not hearing loss, improved the prediction of all imaging variables when combined with age, particularly sensitivity to GABA blockade for the maximum response. To determine if the observed differences between slices from young and aged animals were due to differences in slice health, the redox state in the auditory cortex was assessed by measuring the FAD+/NADH ratio using fluorescence imaging. We found that this ratio is highly sensitive to known redox stressors such as H2O2 and NaCN; however, no difference was found between young and aged animals. By using a new approach to quantitatively assess pharmacological sensitivity of population-level cortical responses to afferent stimulation, these data demonstrate that auditory cortical inhibition diminishes with ageing. Furthermore, these data establish a significant relationship between cortical thickness and GABAergic sensitivity, which had not previously been observed in an animal model of ageing.
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