Serotonergic Modulation of Sensory Representation in a Central Multisensory Circuit Is Pathway Specific

Zheng Quan Tang, Laurence O. Trussell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Many studies have explored how neuromodulators affect synaptic function, yet little is known about how they modify computations at the microcircuit level. In the dorsal cochlear nucleus (DCN), a region that integrates auditory and multisensory inputs from two distinct pathways, serotonin (5-HT) enhances excitability of principal cells, predicting a generalized reduction in sensory thresholds. Surprisingly, we found that when looked at from the circuit level, 5-HT enhances signaling only from the multisensory input, while decreasing input from auditory fibers. This effect is only partially explained by an action on auditory nerve terminals. Rather, 5-HT biases processing for one input pathway by simultaneously enhancing excitability in the principal cell and in a pathway-specific feed-forward inhibitory interneuron. Thus, by acting on multiple targets, 5-HT orchestrates a fundamental shift in representation of convergent auditory and multisensory pathways, enhancing the potency of non-auditory signals in a classical auditory pathway.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1844-1854
Number of pages11
JournalCell Reports
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 22 2017


  • auditory
  • cochlear nucleus
  • microcircuit
  • multisensory integration
  • neuromodulator
  • serotonin
  • tinnitus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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