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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Serotonergic innervation of the inner ear: is it involved in the general physiological control of the auditory receptor?

The auditory pathway of mammals is composed of two complementary ascending afferent and descending efferent independent systems. The brainstem nuclei and cochlear projections for these systems are now well-known. In addition, a highly conspicuous distribution for serotonergic fibers was recently reported. This study focused on these serotonergic fibers and their neurons of origin. We identified several different types of serotonergic brainstem neurons surrounding the superior olivary complex and around the periolivary nuclei. Even though the 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT) efferent cochlear innervation originates in the periolivary area of the superior olivary complex system projecting to the cochlea, it is not involved in the transduction of pure tones during auditory processing. However, recent findings, after cochlear blockade of serotonin transporters, strongly suggested that this neuroactive substance has an important turnover within the auditory receptor. The presence of a conspicuous peripheral nerve distribution together with a particular brainstem origin could define a complex role for this innervation. Therefore, 5-HT fibers projecting to the cochlea might be involved, as in other parts of the auditory pathway, in alertness, attention, control of sleep or wakefulness cycles, and state of urgency prior to the transduction processing at the auditory receptor. A lack, or reduction, of the function of these fibers could result in pathological alterations.[1]


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