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Projections of the pontine nuclei to the cochlear nucleus of rats

Abstract:

Ohlrogge, M., J.R. Doucet, and D.K. Ryugo (2001)
Projections of the pontine nuclei to the cochlear nucleus of rats. Journal of Comparative Neurology 436:290-303.

In the cochlear nucleus, there is a magnocellular core of neurons whose axons form the ascending auditory pathways. Surrounding this core is a thin shell of microneurons called the granule cell domain (GCD). The GCD receives auditory and nonauditory inputs and projects in turn to the dorsal cochlear nucleus, thus appearing to serve as a central locus for integrating polysensory information and descending feedback. Nevertheless, the source of many of these inputs and the nature of the synaptic connections are relatively unknown. We used the retrograde tracer Fast Blue to demonstrate that a major projection arises from the contralateral pontine nuclei (PN) to the GCD. The projecting cells are more densely located in the ventral and rostral parts of the PN. They also are clustered into a lateral and a medial group. Injections of anterograde tracers into the PN labeled mossy fibers in the contralateral GCD. The terminals are confined to those parts of the GCD immediately surrounding the ventral cochlear nucleus. There is no PN projection to the dorsal cochlear nucleus. These endings have the form of bouton and mossy fiber endings as revealed by light and electron microscopy. The PN represent a key station between the cerebral and cerebellar cortices, so the pontocochlear nucleus projection emerges as a significant source of highly processed information that is introduced into the early stages of the auditory pathway. The cerebropontocerebellar pathway may impart coordination and timing cues to the motor system. In an analogous way, perhaps the cerebropontocochlear nucleus projection endows the auditory system with a timing mechanism for extracting temporal information.

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