• auditory brainstem;
  • inhibitory synapse;
  • glycine;
  • electron microscopy;
  • binaural balance;
  • multipolar cell


The axons of commissural neurons that project from one cochlear nucleus to the other were studied after labeling with anterograde tracer. Injections were made into the dorsal subdivision of the cochlear nucleus in order to restrict labeling only to the group of commissural neurons that gave off collaterals to, or were located in, this subdivision. The number of labeled commissural axons in each injection was correlated with the number of labeled radiate multipolar neurons, suggesting radiate neurons as the predominant origin of the axons. The radiate commissural axons are thick and myelinated, and they exit the dorsal acoustic stria of the injected cochlear nucleus to cross the brainstem in the dorsal half, near the crossing position of the olivocochlear bundle. They enter the opposite cochlear nucleus via the dorsal and ventral acoustic stria and at its medial border. Reconstructions of single axons demonstrate that terminations are mostly in the core and typically within a single subdivision of the cochlear nucleus. Extents of termination range from narrow to broad along both the dorsoventral (i.e., tonotopic) and the rostrocaudal dimensions. In the electron microscope, labeled swellings form synapses that are symmetric (in that there is little postsynaptic density), a characteristic of inhibitory synapses. Our labeled axons do not appear to include excitatory commissural axons that end in edge regions of the nucleus. Radiate commissural axons could mediate the broadband inhibition observed in responses to contralateral sound, and they may balance input from the two ears with a quick time course. J. Comp. Neurol. 521:1683–1696, 2013. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.