Central projections of auditory nerve fibers in the barn owl



The central projections of the auditory nerve were examined in the barn owl. Each auditory nerve fiber enters the brain and divides to terminate in both the cochlear nucleus angularis and the cochlear nucleus magnocellularis. This division parallels a functional division into intensity and time coding in the auditory system. The lateral branch of the auditory nerve innervates the nucleus angularis and gives rise to a major and a minor terminal field. The terminals range in size and shape from small boutons to large irregular boutons with thorn-like appendages. The medial branch of the auditory nerve conveys phase information to the cells of the nucleus magnocellularis via large axosomatic endings or end bulbs of Held. Each medial branch divides to form 3–6 end bulbs along the rostrocaudal orientation of a single tonotopic band, and each magnocellular neuron receives 1–4 end bulbs. The end bulb envelops the postsynaptic cell body and forms large numbers of synapses. The auditory nerve profiles contain round clear vesicles and form punctate asymmetric synapses on both somatic spines and the cell body.