Age-related changes in auditory processing affect the quality of life of older adults with and without hearing loss. To distinguish between the effects of sensorineural hearing loss and aging on cortical processing, the main goal of the present study was to compare cortical responses using the same stimulus paradigms and recording conditions in two strains of mice (C57BL/6J and FVB) that differ in the degree of age-related hearing loss. Electroencephalogram (EEG) recordings were obtained from freely moving young and old mice using epidural screw electrodes. We measured event related potentials (ERP) and 40 Hz auditory steady-state responses (ASSR). We used a novel stimulus, termed the gap-ASSR stimulus, which elicits an ASSR by rapidly presenting short gaps in continuous noise. By varying the gap widths and modulation depths, we probed the limits of temporal processing in young and old mice. Temporal fidelity of ASSR and gap-ASSR responses were measured as phase consistency across trials (inter-trial phase clustering; ITPC). The old C57 mice, which show severe hearing loss, produced larger ERP amplitudes compared to young mice. Despite robust ERPs, the old C57 mice showed significantly diminished ITPC in the ASSR and gap-ASSR responses, even with 100% modulation depth. The FVB mice, which show mild hearing loss with age, generated similar ERP amplitudes and ASSR ITPC across the age groups tested. However, the old FVB mice showed decreased gap-ASSR responses compared to young mice, particularly for modulation depths <100%. The C57 mice data suggest that severe presbycusis leads to increased gain in the auditory cortex, but with reduced temporal fidelity. The FVB mice data suggest that with mild hearing loss, age-related changes in temporal processing become apparent only when tested with more challenging sounds (shorter gaps and shallower modulation).
Copyright © 2021. Published by Elsevier B.V.