Auditory prostheses can partially restore speech comprehension when hearing fails. Sound coding with current prostheses is based on electrical stimulation of auditory neurons and has limited frequency resolution due to broad current spread within the cochlea. In contrast, optical stimulation can be spatially confined, which may improve frequency resolution. Here, we used animal models to characterize optogenetic stimulation, which is the optical stimulation of neurons genetically engineered to express the light-gated ion channel channelrhodopsin-2 (ChR2). Optogenetic stimulation of spiral ganglion neurons (SGNs) activated the auditory pathway, as demonstrated by recordings of single neuron and neuronal population responses. Furthermore, optogenetic stimulation of SGNs restored auditory activity in deaf mice. Approximation of the spatial spread of cochlear excitation by recording local field potentials (LFPs) in the inferior colliculus in response to suprathreshold optical, acoustic, and electrical stimuli indicated that optogenetic stimulation achieves better frequency resolution than monopolar electrical stimulation. Virus-mediated expression of a ChR2 variant with greater light sensitivity in SGNs reduced the amount of light required for responses and allowed neuronal spiking following stimulation up to 60 Hz. Our study demonstrates a strategy for optogenetic stimulation of the auditory pathway in rodents and lays the groundwork for future applications of cochlear optogenetics in auditory research and prosthetics.
Victor H. Hernandez, Anna Gehrt, Kirsten Reuter, Zhizi Jing, Marcus Jeschke, Alejandro Mendoza Schulz, Gerhard Hoch, Matthias Bartels, Gerhard Vogt, Carolyn W. Garnham, Hiromu Yawo, Yugo Fukazawa, George J. Augustine, Ernst Bamberg, Sebastian Kügler, Tim Salditt, Livia de Hoz, Nicola Strenzke, Tobias Moser
Guidelines: The Editorial Board will only consider letters that we deem relevant and of interest to our readers. We will not post data that have not been subjected to peer review, nor will we post letters that are essentially a reiteration of another letter. We reserve the right to edit any letter for length, content, and clarity. Authors will be notified by e-mail if their letters were accepted. No appeals will be considered.
Specific requirements: All letters must be 400 words or fewer. You may enter the letter as plain text or HTML. The author's name and e-mail address are required, and will be posted with the letter. All possible conflicts of interest must be noted, even if they are not posted. If you wish to include a figure (keep in mind that non-peer-reviewed data will not be posted), please contact the editors directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.