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J Comp Neurol. 1994 Aug 1;346(1):19-42.

A physiological and structural study of neuron types in the cochlear nucleus. II. Neuron types and their structural correlation with response properties.

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Department of Anatomy, University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington 06030.


The present study examined the morphological cell types of neurons labeled with intracellular horseradish peroxidase injections, many of them following electrophysiological recordings in the cochlear nucleus of gerbils and chinchillas. Most of the subdivisions and neuronal types previously described in the cat were identified in the present material, including spherical and globular bushy cells, stellate, bushy multipolar, elongate, octopus, and giant cells in the ventral cochlear nucleus, and a cartwheel cell in the dorsal cochlear nucleus. In many cases these structurally distinct neurons were correlated with their characteristic responses to stimulation by sound or intracellular injection of depolarizing current. The dendritic terminals of the elongate, antenniform, and clavate cells of the posteroventral cochlear nucleus link each of these cell types with neighboring structures in distinct patterns, which may provide a basis for differences in synaptic organization. These cell types differ from each other and from the stellate cells of the anteroventral cochlear nucleus. Despite their heterogeneous morphology, most of these neurons had a regular discharge in response to stimulation (choppers). Irregularly firing neurons (primary-like) had very different structures, e.g., the spherical and globular bushy cells and the bushy multipolar neuron. They, too, represent a heterogeneous population. An onset neuron was identified as an octopus cell. This paper compares the morphological observations with the electrophysiological properties of different cell types reported in a companion paper (Feng et al. [1994] J. Comp. Neurol.). Together, these findings imply that response properties may be partially independent of neuronal structure. Morphologically distinct neurons can generate similar temporal patterns in response to simple acoustic stimuli. Nevertheless, the synaptic organization of these different neuron types, including their connections, would be expected to affect or alter the cells' responses to appropriate stimuli. The possibility is raised that membrane properties and synaptic organization complement and interact with each other.

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