Neurons that provide the efferent innervation to the labyrinthine and lateral line sense organs of the eel were located by applying horseradish peroxidase to branches of the appropriate cranial nerves. Retrogradely labeled neurons were found in a single median column, the octavolateralis efferent nucleus (OEN), located immediately rostral to and overlapping with the facial nucleus of the branchiomotor column. We estimate that on each side of the brain the efferent nucleus contains about 60–70 neurons, most of which supply the ear and the lateral line system of the head. Most neurons (∼90%) are ipsilateral to the targets they innervate. There is no crisp topographical order within the nucleus because neurons supplying different end organs intermingle. However, the head lateral line is supplied by rostrally located neurons, and the body system by more caudal neurons.
There are no marked differences in cell form between neurons supplying different targets. Most are multipolar, relatively uniform in size, and have extensive dendrites. The dendrites of some cells extend to the contralateral side of the brain. Efferent axons are of small diameter (∼3 μm). Two neurons are sufficiently constant in size and location that they can be consistently recognized from fish to fish. Their axons branch to supply more than one target. Nearly all efferent neurons stain for acetylcholinesterase and some, bordering the midline, consistently stain weakly.