In the cat ventral cochlear nucleus, separate neuronal classes have been defined based on morphological characteristics; physiologically defined unit types have also been described based on the shape of post-stimulus-time-histograms in response to tone bursts at characteristic frequency. The aim of the present study was to address directly the issue of how morphological cell types relate to physiological unit types. We used intracellular injections of horseradish peroxidase to stain individual neurons after their response characteristics were determined by intracellular recordings. The maintenance of a continuous negative resting potential, the correspondence of the calculated position of the electrode tip at the time of injection to the location of the stained neuron, and the similarity of response properties collected before and after the injection provide evidence that the injected, stained, and recovered neuron corresponds to the functionally defined unit.
In the region around the nerve root in the anteroventral cochlear nucleus, two “primarylike” and one “primarylike with notch” units were “bushy” cells. “Bushy” cells are characterized by primary dendrites arising from one hemisphere of the soma and ramifying repeatedly to produce their bushy dendritic arbor. In this same region, the “chopper” and two “on” units were also “bushy” cells. In the posteroventral cochlear nucleus, the “chopper” unit was a “stellate” cell and the “on” unit was an “octopus” cell.
These results are partially consistent with previous conclusions based on correlations established between the regional distribution of physiological unit types and morphological cell types. More importantly, they confirm and extend recent intracellular marking data (Rhode et al., ′83b). If our classification schemes have functional significance, we are left with the conclusion that the distinction between “bushy” and “stellate” cells in the auditory nerve root region of the ventral cochlear nucleus does not correspond in any simple way to distinctions between physiological unit types. More than one morphological cell type can exhibit the same particular response pattern, and the same morphological cell type can exhibit several different response patterns.