Bats on Prozac: Serotonin in the auditory system

Laura Hurley, PhD
University of Texas, Austin

Wednesday, August 18, 1999
3:00 p.m.—Pacific Forum

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Serotonin is involved in a huge number of processes in the brain, ranging from fetal development of the brain to regulation of behaviors like appetite and depression, and even to motor and sensory regulation. Like other sensory systems, the auditory system receives projections from serotonergic neurons. However, little is known about how serotonin affects the decoding of sound by the brain, even though serotonin has been implicated as an agent in several types of hearing dysfunction.

I have been using the Mexican free-tailed bat as a model to investigate the serotonergic modulation of auditory responses in one auditory nucleus of the brain, the inferior colliculus. The results intriguingly suggest that the effect of serotonin depends in part upon the type of sound used as a stimulus. While the function of these stimulus-dependent effects of serotonin is unclear, it is consistent with the idea that serotonin is involved in directing auditory attention towards behaviorally relevant stimuli.

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 Last updated: December 19, 2000