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Exp Brain Res. 1988;73(2):263-84.

Divergent projections of physiologically characterized rat ventral cochlear nucleus neurons as shown by intra-axonal injection of horseradish peroxidase.

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Department of Animal Physiology, University of Tübingen, Federal Republic of Germany.


An attempt was made to correlate electrophysiological and morphological characteristics of rat ventral cochlear nucleus neurons. Their axonal course and their soma morphology were investigated using the intra-axonal horseradish peroxidase method. Prior to labeling, neurons were characterized by recording their response patterns to acoustic stimulation with pure tones. Three types of cells were found: Category I (37 neurons) exhibited "primarylike" responses and a spontaneous firing rate below 10 spikes/s. Category II (21 neurons) showed "on" responses and little spontaneous activity. Category III (9 neurons) had "primarylike" responses like neurons in category I. However, the spontaneous activity rate of these neurons was significantly higher (mean: 95 spikes/s). Among the response categories, the morphological characteristics differed in some prominent aspects. Within each category, however, the morphological properties were rather similar. All neurons in category I were globular/bushy cells located in the area of the entrance of the cochlear nerve. The axon of each cell coursed along the ventral acoustic stria and consistently innervated the lateral superior olive ipsilaterally, and the nucleus of the trapezoid body and the nucleus of the lateral lemniscus contralaterally. Some neurons also projected to periolivary nuclei ipsilaterally and contralaterally. Neurons in category II were located in the posteroventral cochlear nucleus and were presumably multipolar/stellate cells. Their axons coursed via the intermediate acoustic stria and innervated mainly contralateral periolivary regions as well as the contralateral nucleus of the lateral lemniscus. Ipsilaterally, the lateral superior olive and the superior periolivary nucleus were innervated by some of the category II neurons. Somata types of neurons in category III could not be identified morphologically, but somata were located in caudal parts of the posteroventral cochlear nucleus that correspond to the octopus cell area. Their axons coursed via the intermediate acoustic stria and innervated periolivary regions and the contralateral nucleus of the lateral lemniscus. Thus, their axonal distribution differed only slightly from neurons in category II. These data confirm and extend previous findings regarding the efferent connections of ventral cochlear neurons. They emphasize the complexity of the axonal projection patterns of single cochlear nucleus cells. Since two types of response patterns and three types of axonal projection patterns have been observed, there remains an ambiguous relation between response pattern and axonal projection site.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS).

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