• auditory;
  • inhibitory;
  • superior olivary nucleus;
  • three-dimensional tonotopic organization


Topographic maps are salient features of neuronal organization in sensory systems. Inhibitory components of neuronal circuitry are often embedded within this organization, making them difficult to isolate experimentally. The auditory system provides opportunities to study the topographic organization of inhibitory long-range projection nuclei, such as the superior olivary nucleus (SON). We analyzed the topographic organization of response features of neurons in the SON of chickens. Quantitative methods were developed to assess and communicate this organization. These analyses led to three main conclusions: 1) sound frequency is linearly arranged from dorsal (low frequencies) to ventral (high frequencies) in SON; 2) this tonotopic organization is less precise than the organization of the excitatory nuclei in the chicken auditory brainstem; and 3) neurons with different response patterns to pure tone stimuli are interspersed throughout the SON and show similar tonotopic organizations. This work provides a predictive model to determine the optimal stimulus frequency for a neuron from its spatial location in the SON. J. Comp. Neurol. 520:1493–1508, 2012. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.