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J Comp Neurol. 1995 Sep 11;360(1):17-32.

Axonal projections from the lateral and medial superior olive to the inferior colliculus of the cat: a study using electron microscopic autoradiography.

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Department of Anatomy, University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington 06030-3405, USA.


The superior olivary complex is the first site in the central auditory system where binaural interactions occur. The output of these nuclei is direct to the central nucleus of the inferior colliculus, where binaural inputs synapse with monaural afferents such as those from the cochlear nuclei. Despite the importance of the olivary pathways for binaural information processing, little is known about their synaptic organization in the colliculus. The present study investigates the structure of the projections from the lateral and medial superior olivary nuclei to the inferior colliculus at the electron microscopic level. Stereotaxic placement and electrophysiological responses to binaural sounds were used to locate the superior olive. Anterograde axonal transport of 3H-leucine was combined with light and electron microscopic autoradiography to reveal the location and morphology of the olivary axonal endings. The results show that the superior olivary complex contributes different patterns of synaptic input to the central nucleus of the inferior colliculus. Each projection from the superior olivary complex to the colliculus differs in the number and combinations of endings. Axonal endings from the ipsilateral medial superior olive were exclusively the round (R) type that contain round synaptic vesicles and make asymmetrical synaptic junctions. This morphology is usually associated with excitatory synapses and neurotransmitters such as glutamate. Endings from medial superior olive terminate densely in the central nucleus. The projection from the contralateral lateral superior olive also terminates primarily as R endings. This projection also includes small numbers of pleomorphic (PL) endings that contain pleomorphic synaptic vesicles and usually make symmetrical synaptic junctions. The PL morphology is associated with inhibitory synapses and transmitters such as gamma-aminobutyric acid and glycine. All endings from the contralateral lateral superior olive terminate much less densely than endings from the medial olive. In contrast, the projection from the ipsilateral lateral superior olive contributes both R and PL endings in roughly equal proportions. These ipsilateral afferents are heterogeneous in density and can terminate in lower or higher concentrations than endings from the contralateral side. These data show that the superior olive is a major contributor to the synaptic organization of the central nucleus of the inferior colliculus. The ipsilateral projections of the medial and lateral superior olive may produce higher concentrations of R endings than other inputs to the central nucleus. Such endings may participate in excitatory synapses. The highest concentrations of PL endings come from the ipsilateral lateral superior olive.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS).

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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