Activity-Dependent Regulation of Synaptic Strength and Neuronal Excitability in Central Auditory Pathways

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Neural activity plays an important role in regulating synaptic strength and neuronal membrane properties. Attempts to establish guiding rules for activity-dependent neuronal changes have led to such concepts as homeostasis of cellular activity and Hebbian reinforcement of synaptic strength. However, it is clear that there are diverse effects resulting from activity changes, and that these changes depend on the experimental preparation, and the developmental stage of the neural circuits under study. In addition, most experimental evidence on activity-dependent regulation comes from reduced preparations such as neuronal cultures. This review highlights recent results from studies of the intact mammalian auditory system, where changes in activity have been shown to produce alterations in synaptic and membrane properties at the level of individual neurons, and changes in network properties, including the formation of tonotopic maps.