Journal of Comparative Neurology vol:331 issue:2 pages:245-60
Bushy cells in the anteroventral cochlear nucleus (AVCN) receive their principal excitatory input from the auditory nerve and are the primary source of excitatory input to more centrally located brainstem auditory nuclei. Despite this pivotal position in the auditory pathway, details of the basic physiological information being carried by axons of these cells and their projections to more central auditory nuclei have not been fully explored. In an attempt to clarify these details, we have physiologically characterized and anatomically labeled individual axons of the spherical bushy cell (SBC) class of the cat AVCN. The characteristic frequencies (CFs) of our injected SBC population are low, all less than 12 kHz and primarily (83%) less than 3 kHz, while their spontaneous activity is comparatively high (mean of 59 spikes/sec). In response to short tone bursts at CF, low CF (< 1 kHz) SBC units can phase-lock better than auditory nerve fibers. SBCs with CFs above 1 kHz have primary-like responses at all stimulus levels and can show robust phase-locking to an off-CF, 500 Hz tone. When compared with our previously reported population of labeled globular bushy cells (GBC; Smith et al., 1991, J. Comp. Neurol. 304:387-407), some similarities and differences are apparent in both physiological response properties and axonal projection pattern. GBCs show no low frequency bias in CFs, have lower spontaneous rates, and the high CF units exhibit a primary-like-with-notch response at high stimulus levels as a consequence of a very well timed onset component. Low CF, GBC short tone responses are indistinguishable from those of SBCs. Anatomically, the axons of SBCs cross the midline in the dorsal component of the trapezoid body and typically innervate the medial superior olive (MSO) on both sides, the ipsilateral lateral superior olive (LSO), and the contralateral ventral nucleus of the lateral lemniscus (VNLL). The projections to the contralateral, but not the ipsilateral MSO, show a rostral to caudal delay line configuration, similar to the scheme first proposed by Jeffress (1948, J. Comp. Psychol. 41:35-39). The form of this delay line is consistent with the topographic map of interaural time delays reported by Yin and Chan (1990, J. Neurophysiol. 64:465-488). Projections to the ipsilateral LSO often take an indirect route. In contrast, GBC axons travel in the ventral component of the trapezoid body, never innervate the MSO, rarely innervate the ipsilateral LSO, and always innervate the contralateral medial nucleus of the trapezoid body. The terminal specializations of both SBC and GBC axons contain round vesicles.