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Sinclair, James L.; Fischl, Matthew J.; Alexandrova, Olga; Hess, Martin; Grothe, Benedikt ORCID: 0000-0001-7317-0615; Leibold, Christian; Kopp-Scheinpflug, Conny (2017): Sound-Evoked Activity Influences Myelination of Brainstem Axons in the Trapezoid Body. In: Journal of Neuroscience, Vol. 37, No. 34: pp. 8239-8255
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Plasticity of myelination represents a mechanism to tune the flow of information by balancing functional requirements with metabolic and spatial constraints. The auditory system is heavily myelinated and operates at the upper limits of action potential generation frequency and speed observed in the mammalian CNS. This study aimed to characterize the development of myelin within the trapezoid body, a central auditory fiber tract, and determine the influence sensory experience has on this process in mice of both sexes. Wefind that in vitro conduction speed doubles following hearing onset and the ability to support high-frequency firing increases concurrently. Also in this time, the diameter of trapezoid body axons and the thickness of myelin double, reaching mature-like thickness between 25 and 35 d of age. Earplugs were used to induce similar to 50 dB elevation in auditory thresholds. If introduced at hearing onset, trapezoid body fibers developed thinner axons and myelin than age-matched controls. If plugged during adulthood, the thickest trapezoid body fibers also showed a decrease in myelin. These data demonstrate the need for sensory activity in both development and maintenance of myelin and have important implications in the study of myelin plasticity and how this could relate to sensorineural hearing loss following peripheral impairment.