Sensory cortices contain extensive descending (corticofugal) pathways, yet their impact on brainstem processing - particularly across sensory systems - remains poorly understood. In the auditory system, the inferior colliculus (IC) in the midbrain receives cross-modal inputs from the visual cortex (VC). However, the influences from VC on auditory midbrain processing are unclear. To investigate whether and how visual cortical inputs affect IC auditory responses, the present study combines auditory blood-oxygenation-level-dependent (BOLD) functional MRI (fMRI) with cell-type specific optogenetic manipulation of visual cortex. The results show that predominant optogenetic excitation of the excitatory pyramidal neurons in the infragranular layers of the primary VC enhances the noise-evoked BOLD fMRI responses within the IC. This finding reveals that inputs from VC influence and facilitate basic sound processing in the auditory midbrain. Such combined optogenetic and auditory fMRI approach can shed light on the large-scale modulatory effects of corticofugal pathways and guide detailed electrophysiological studies in the future.
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