Cochlear implants are neuroprosthetic devices that provide hearing to deaf patients, although outcomes are highly variable even with prolonged training and use. The central auditory system must process cochlear implant signals, but it is unclear how neural circuits adapt - or fail to adapt - to such inputs. Understanding these mechanisms is required for development of next-generation neuroprosthetics that interface with existing neural circuits and enable synaptic plasticity to improve perceptual outcomes. Here we describe a new system for cochlear implant insertion, stimulation, and behavioral training in rats. Animals were first ensured to have significant hearing loss via physiological and behavioral criteria. We developed a surgical approach for multi-channel (2-channel or 8-channel) array insertion, comparable to implantation procedures and depth in humans. Peripheral and cortical responses to stimulation were used to objectively program the implant. Animals fitted with implants learned to use them for an auditory-dependent task that assesses frequency detection and recognition, in a background of environmentally- and self-generated noise, and ceased responding appropriately to sounds when the implant was temporarily inactivated. This physiologically-calibrated and behaviorally-validated system provides a powerful opportunity to study the neural basis of neuroprosthetic device use and plasticity.
- auditory cortex
- cochlear implants
- Copyright © 2016, Journal of Neurophysiology