The auditory system consists of an intricate set of connections interposed between hierarchically arranged nuclei. The ascending pathways carrying sound information from the cochlea to the auditory cortex are, predictably, altered in instances of hearing loss resulting from blockage or damage to peripheral auditory structures. However, hearing loss-induced changes in descending connections that emanate from higher auditory centers and project back toward the periphery are still poorly understood. These pathways, which are the hypothesized substrate of high-level contextual and plasticity cues, are intimately linked to the ascending stream, and are thereby also likely to be influenced by auditory deprivation. In the current report, we review both the human and animal literature regarding changes in top-down modulation after peripheral hearing loss. Both aged humans and cochlear implant users are able to harness the power of top-down cues to disambiguate corrupted sounds and, in the case of aged listeners, may rely more heavily on these cues than non-aged listeners. The animal literature also reveals a plethora of structural and functional changes occurring in multiple descending projection systems after peripheral deafferentation. These data suggest that peripheral deafferentation induces a rebalancing of bottom-up and top-down controls, and that it will be necessary to understand the mechanisms underlying this rebalancing to develop better rehabilitation strategies for individuals with peripheral hearing loss.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sensory Systems