In an effort to understand what integrative tasks are performed in the cochlear nuclei, the present study was undertaken to describe neuronal circuits in the posteroventral cochlear nucleus (PVCN) anatomically and physiologically. The cochlear nuclear complex receives auditory information from the cochlea through the auditory nerve. Within the cochlear nuclei, signals travel along several parallel and interconnected pathways. From the cochlear nuclei, transformed versions of the signals are passed to higher auditory centers in the brainstem. We have recorded electrophysiological responses from cells that were subsequently visualized with horseradish peroxidase (HRP). Responses to shocks to the auditory nerve root and to intracellularly injected current pulses were recorded and correlated with morphology. Two types of stellate cells and octopus cells were distinguished. T stellate cells project out of the cochlear nuclei through the T rapezoid body; D stellate cells do not. The axons of D stellate cells extend D orsalward to the dorsal cochlear nucleus (DCN) but have not been traced out of the nucleus. Both T and D stellate cells have terminal collaterals in the multipolar cell region of the PVCN and in the DCN. The endings of one T stellate cell formed a narrow band rostrocaudally in the fusiform cell layer of the DCN that resembled an isofrequency band. The endings of one D stellate cell lay closely apposed to multipolar cells in the deep layer of the DCN. The dendrites of T stellate cells are often aligned along the path of auditory nerve fibers and end in tufts, whereas those of D stellate cells extend radially in the plane of the lateral surface of the PVCN toward granule cell areas and branch sparingly. Octopus cells have dendrites oriented perpendicularly to the path of auditory nerve fibers. Their axons were cut medially in the slices; none had collateral branches.
Both T and D stellate cells were monosynaptically excited to threshold by shocks to the nerve root, indicating that they could participate in local circuits that we measure physiologically. T stellate cells have action potentials that peak at about O m V and are followed by single undershoots. The D stellate cell that was best impaled fired overshooting action potentials that were followed by double undershoots. Octopus cells were monosynaptically excited to threshold by shocks to the auditory nerve.