Relating structure to function: Heschl's gyrus and acoustic processing.
In humans, administration of benzodiazepines (BZD) has been shown to have an asymmetrical effect on the medial olivocochlear system. Indeed, a decrease of evoked otoacoustic emission suppression by contralateral acoustic stimulation, which explores the medial olivocochlear efferent system, was observed in the right ear, with no left ear effect. This result suggests a possible left-right auditory pathway BZD receptor asymmetry. Given the anatomical link between auditory centers and the medial olivocochlear system, the existence of a larger volume of cortical connecting fibers in the left hemisphere, and the possible link between BZD receptor density and neuronal density, we tested the hypothesis of an asymmetrical localization of BZD receptors in the auditory system in 10 right-handed subjects using [11C]flumazenil positron emission tomography. Semi-quantitative measurements of flumazenil binding were evaluated in Heschl's gyrus showing a left-right asymmetry in favor of left auditory cortex. This result indicates a higher density of neurons in left auditory cortex. The possible link between neurochemical asymmetry and functional asymmetry, and the perceptual outcome of BZD administration, will be discussed.