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Microsc Res Tech. 2000 Nov 15;51(4):403-12.

Organization of the human superior olivary complex.

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Department of Neuroanatomy, House Ear Institute, Los Angeles, California 90057, USA.


The distinctive morphology of the human superior olivary complex reflects its primate origins, but functional evidence suggests that it plays a role in auditory spatial mapping which is similar to olivary function in other mammalian species. It seems likely that the well-developed human medial olivary nucleus is the basis for extraction of interaural time and phase differences. The much smaller human lateral olivary nucleus probably functions in analysis of interaural differences in frequency and intensity, but the absence of a human nucleus of the trapezoid body implies some difference in the mechanisms of this function. A window on human olivary function is provided by the evoked auditory brainstem response (ABR), including its binaural interaction component (BIC). Anatomical, electrophysiological, and histopathological studies suggest that ABR waves IV and V are generated by axonal pathways at the level of the superior olivary complex. Periolivary cell groups are prominent in the human olivary complex. The cell groups located medial, lateral, and dorsal are similar to periolivary nuclei of other mammals, but the periolivary nucleus at the rostral pole of the human olivary complex is very large by mammalian standards. Within the periolivary system, immunostaining for neurotransmitter-related substances allows us to identify populations of medial and lateral olivocochlear neurons. The human olivocochlear system is unique among mammals in the relatively small size of its lateral efferent component. Some consideration is given to the idea that the integration provided by periolivary cell groups, particularly modulation of the periphery by the olivocochlear system, is an extension of the spatial mapping function of the main olivary nuclei.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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