Groups of pregnant rats were injected with two successive daily doses of 3H-thymidine form gestational days 12 and 13 (E12 + 13) until the day before parturition (E21 + 22). In adult progeny of the injected rats the proportion of neurons generated on specific embryonic days was determined quantitatively in the vestibular and auditory nuclei of the upper medulla. In the vestibular nuclei, neurons are generated between days E11 and E15 in an overlapping sequential order, yielding a lateral-to-medial and a rostral-to-caudal internuclear gradient. In the lateral vestibular nucleus peak production time is day E12; in the superior nucleus, E13; in the inferior nucleus, E13 and E14; and in the medial nucleus, E14. The early generation of neurons of the lateral vestibular nucleus may reflect the early differentiation of the circuit from the gravity receptors (utricle) to neurons of the spinal cord controlling postural balance. The later production of neurons of the superior vestibular nucleus may reflect the subsequent differentiation of the circuit from the rotational receptors (semicircular canals) to the neurons of the brain stem controlling eye movements. The generation time of neurons of the nucleus prepositus hypoglossi overlaps with that of the medial vestibular nucleus.
The neurons of the anteroventral and posteroventral cochlear nuclei are produced form days E13 to E17, with no temporal differences between the two nuclei. The neurons of the dorsal cochlear nucleus are generated over a very long time span, beginning on day E12 and extending into the postnatal period. There is a sequence in the production of neurons forming the different layers of the dorsal cochlear nucleus in the following order: pyramidal cells, cells of the inner layer, cells of the outer layer and, finally, cells of the granular layer. There is also a sequential production of neurons in four nuclei of the superior olivary complex. In the lateral trapezoid nucleus peak production time is day E12; in the medial superior olivary nucleus, day E13; in the medial trapezoid nucleus, day E15; and in the lateral superior olivary nucleus, day E16. This order yields a medial-to-lateral gradient in the dorsal aspect of the superior olivary complex, and a lateral-to-medial gradient ventrally. These mirror-image gradients were also seen intranuclearly in the lateral superior olivary nucleus and the medial trapezoid nucleus. The cytogenetic gradients could not be related to tonotopic representation; however, they could be related to the lateral location of ipsilateral cochlear nucleus input to the lateral superior olivary nucleus and the medial location of the contralateral cochlear nucleus input to the medial trapezoid nucleus.