The effect of 4 wk of streptozocin (STZ)-induced diabetes on the transmission time of the auditory-evoked brain stem response (ABR) was examined in conscious male Sprague-Dawley rats. Distal nerve transmission time of the auditory pathway (latency of peak II), which includes conduction along the 8th cranial nerve, increased in diabetic rats (n = 9) relative to nondiabetic rats (n = 17). The difference in peak II latency between diabetic and control rats was significant beginning 2 wk after the induction of diabetes (P < .05). In contrast, 4 wk of STZ-induced diabetes had no effect on the central transmission time of the auditory pathway (interpeak latency between peaks II and IV). Oral administration of tolrestat, a structurally novel aldose reductase inhibitor (n = 8; 20 mg/kg twice daily 1 wk before and 4 wk after STZ injection), prevented the diabetes-induced increase in distal nerve transmission time. These findings indicate that experimentally induced diabetes can result in a nerve dysfunction as measured by the increased latencies of the early components of the ABR. Furthermore, because tolrestat prevents these changes in the ABR, aldose reductase and the polyol pathway are implicated in this neuropathy.

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