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J Assoc Res Otolaryngol. 2009 Jun;10(2):269-80. doi: 10.1007/s10162-008-0155-6. Epub 2009 Jan 27.

Commissural neurons in the rat ventral cochlear nucleus.

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Center for Hearing and Balance, Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Traylor Research Building, Room 521, 720 Rutland Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA.


Commissural neurons connect the cochlear nucleus complexes of both ears. Previous studies have suggested that the neurons may be separated into two anatomical subtypes on the basis of percent apposition (PA); that is, the percentage of the soma apposed by synaptic terminals. The present study combined tract tracing with synaptic immunolabeling to compare the soma area, relative number, and location of Type I (low PA) and Type II (high PA) commissural neurons in the ventral cochlear nucleus (VCN) of rats. Confocal microscopic analysis revealed that 261 of 377 (69%) commissural neurons have medium-sized somata with Type I axosomatic innervation. The commissural neurons also showed distinct topographical distributions. The majority of Type I neurons were located in the small cell cap of the VCN, which serves as a nexus for regulatory pathways within the auditory brainstem. Most Type II neurons were found in the magnocellular core. This anatomical dichotomy should broaden current views on the function of the commissural pathway that stress the fast inhibitory interactions generated by Type II neurons. The more prevalent Type I neurons may underlie slow regulatory influences that enhance binaural processing or the recovery of function after injury.

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