Congenital deafness results in abnormal synaptic structure in endings of the auditory nerve. If these abnormalities persist after restoration of auditory nerve activity by a cochlea: implant, the processing of time-varying signals such as speech would likely be impaired. We stimulated congenitally deaf cats for 3 months with a six-channel cochlear implant The device used human speech-processing programs, and cats responded to environmental sounds. Auditory nerve fibers exhibited a recovery of normal synaptic structure in these cats. This rescue of synapses is attributed to a return of spike activity in the auditory nerve and may help explain cochlear implant benefits in childhood deafness.
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