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Brain Res Brain Res Rev. 1990 Sep-Dec;15(3):295-323.

The descending auditory pathway and acousticomotor systems: connections with the inferior colliculus.

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  • 1Curriculum in Neurobiology, Department of Cell Biology and Anatomy, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill 27599.


In this review the following major points are emphasized. First, the descending auditory system includes 3 separate, but parallel pathways connecting the AC, MGB and IC. Each pathway makes a strong set of connections with a distinctive area from each of 3 auditory centers. The three sets of connections are mutually exclusive, such that the pathways describe 3 separate corticocolliculo-geniculate systems. Thus, multiple feedback loops between the AC and the IC are formed which create a great capacity for parallel processing of auditory information. Second, the IC projects to the SOC and, in particular, to the source of olivocochlear efferent neurons. The connections of the IC with the AC rostrally, and with the olivocochlear neurons caudally, imply a descending trisynaptic pathway from the cortex to the cochlea whose travel time could better that of the ascending pathway and thus provide an efficient feedback mechanism. It is probable that the IC influences cochlear signal processing. The reciprocal connectivity between any two of either the IC, SOC or the CN, again, affords to the auditory system remarkable parallel processing capabilities. Finally, the descending auditory, and 'extra-auditory' connections of the IC bestow a functional separateness to the 3 nuclei of the IC, a view that is best illustrated by description of the ICX as an acousticomotor nucleus, having connections with the SC, cerebellum and somatosensory and vocalization systems. More sophisticated questions about the descending auditory system will incorporate these present observations and test functional implications to which they allude.

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