There are currently no noninvasive imaging methods available for auditory brain mapping in mice, despite the increasing use of genetically engineered mice to study auditory brain development and hearing loss. We developed a manganese-enhanced MRI (MEMRI) method to map regions of accumulated sound-evoked activity in awake, normally behaving mice. To demonstrate its utility for high-resolution (100-μm) brain mapping, we used MEMRI to show the tonotopic organization of the mouse inferior colliculus. To test its efficacy in an experimental setting, we acquired data from mice experiencing unilateral conductive hearing loss at different ages. Larger and persistent changes in auditory brainstem activity resulted when hearing loss occurred before the onset of hearing, showing that early hearing loss biases the response toward the functional ear. Thus, MEMRI provides a sensitive and effective method for mapping the mouse auditory brainstem and has great potential for a range of functional neuroimaging studies in normal and mutant mice.
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