Descending auditory pathways: projections from the inferior colliculus contact superior olivary cells that project bilaterally to the cochlear nuclei.
Multiple retrograde and anterograde tracers were used to characterize a pathway that extends from the inferior colliculus to both the left and right cochlear nuclei via a synaptic relay in the superior olivary complex. Different fluorescent tracers were injected into the left and right cochlear nuclei to identify cells in the superior olivary complex that project bilaterally. Double-labeled cells were present in almost all periolivary nuclei; the majority were located in the ventral nucleus of the trapezoid body and the anteroventral periolivary nucleus. Because these two nuclei are targets of descending projections from the inferior colliculus, triple-labeling experiments were performed to determine whether collicular axons contact the periolivary cells that project to the cochlear nuclei. The results demonstrate that descending axons from the inferior colliculus contact periolivary cells that project to the cochlear nuclei, including periolivary cells that project bilaterally. This pathway could provide an opportunity for higher levels of the auditory system to influence activity bilaterally in the cochlear nuclei and thus to modulate the initial processing of acoustic information by the brain.
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