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Keywords:

  • hearing;
  • horseradish peroxidase;
  • primary sensory neurons;
  • tonotopy;
  • topography

Abstract

The cochlear nucleus receives incoming auditory nerve discharges, preserves or transforms the signals, and distributes outgoing activity to higher centers. The organization of auditory nerve input to the cochlear nucleus will heavily influence the mechanisms by which acoustic information is processed. In order to study structure-function relationships between auditory nerve and cochlear nucleus, the axonal arborizations of type I spiral ganglion cells were labeled with intracellular injections of horseradish peroxidase after first being electrophysiologically characterized by recording with a micropipette inserted into the axon. For each auditory nerve fiber, spontaneous discharge rate (SR) and a frequency tuning curve were determined. The tuning curve yielded the characteristic frequency (CF, that frequency to which the fiber is most sensitive) and CF threshold in dB SPL. Individual axonal arborizations including all terminal swellings were reconstructed through serial sections with the aid of a light microscope and drawing tube. On average, 13.4 ± 8.1% of the terminal swellings were found in the dorsal cochlear nucleus (DCN) and the remaining terminal swellings were located in the ventral cochlear nucleus. In the DCN, the terminal fields of auditory nerve fibers were restricted to layer III, contributed to cytoarchitectonic striations, and exhibited a systematic relationship between fiber CF and position along the strial (or long) axis of the nucleus. Computer-aided rotations revealed that the terminal fields were anisotropic, being flattened within the trans-strial axis. The maximal width of the terminal fields along the strial axis ranged from 31–321 μm and was inversely related to fiber CF and SR. Variation in the number of terminals or depth of the terminal field within layer III was not related to SR grouping or CF of the fiber. © 1993 Wiley-Liss, Inc.