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J Comp Neurol. 2014 Mar;522(4):937-49. doi: 10.1002/cne.23454.

Tonotopic organization of vertical cells in the dorsal cochlear nucleus of the CBA/J mouse.

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Department of Neuroscience, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, 21205; Hearing Research Program, Garvan Institute of Medical Research, Sydney, New South Wales, 2010, Australia.


The systematic and topographic representation of frequency is a first principle of organization throughout the auditory system. The dorsal cochlear nucleus (DCN) receives direct tonotopic projections from the auditory nerve (AN) as well as secondary and descending projections from other sources. Among the recipients of AN input in the DCN are vertical cells (also called tuberculoventral cells), glycinergic interneurons thought to provide on- or near-best-frequency feed-forward inhibition to principal cells in the DCN and various cells in the anteroventral cochlear nucleus (AVCN). Differing lines of physiological and anatomical evidence suggest that vertical cells and their projections are organized with respect to frequency, but this has not been conclusively demonstrated in the intact mammalian brain. To address this issue, we retrogradely labeled vertical cells via physiologically targeted injections in the AVCN of the CBA/J mouse. Results from multiple cases were merged with a normalized 3D template of the cochlear nucleus (Muniak et al. [2013] J. Comp. Neurol. 521:1510-1532) to demonstrate quantitatively that the arrangement of vertical cells is tonotopic and aligned to the innervation pattern of the AN. These results suggest that vertical cells are well positioned for providing immediate, frequency-specific inhibition onto cells of the DCN and AVCN to facilitate spectral processing.


3D reconstruction; auditory nerve; frequency organization; interneuron; tuberculoventral; type II

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