Responses of medial olivocochlear neurons. Specifying the central pathways of the medial olivocochlear reflex

Exp Brain Res. 2003 Dec;153(4):491-8. doi: 10.1007/s00221-003-1679-y. Epub 2003 Oct 14.


Medial olivocochlear (MOC) neurons project to outer hair cells (OHC), forming the efferent arm of a reflex that affects sound processing and offers protection from acoustic overstimulation. The central pathways that trigger the MOC reflex in response to sound are poorly understood. Insight into these pathways can be obtained by examining the responses of single MOC neurons recorded from anesthetized guinea pigs. Response latencies of MOC neurons are as short as 5 ms. This latency is consistent with the idea that type I, but not type II, auditory-nerve fibers provide the major inputs to the reflex interneurons in the cochlear nucleus. This short latency also implies that the cochlear-nucleus interneurons have rapidly conducting axons. In the cochlear nucleus, lesions of the posteroventral subdivision (PVCN), but not the anteroventral (AVCN) or dorsal (DCN) subdivisions, produce permanent disruption of the MOC reflex, based on a metric of adaptation of the distortion-product otoacoustic emission (DPOAE). This finding supports earlier anatomical results demonstrating that some PVCN neurons project to MOC neurons. Within the PVCN, there are two general types of units when classified according to poststimulus time histograms: onset units and chopper units. The MOC response is sustained and cannot be produced solely by inputs having an onset pattern. The MOC reflex interneurons are thus likely to be chopper units of PVCN. Also supporting this conclusion, chopper units and MOC neurons both have sharp frequency tuning. Thus, the most likely pathway for the sound-evoked MOC reflex begins with the responses of hair cells, proceeds with type I auditory-nerve fibers, PVCN chopper units, and MOC neurons, and ends with the MOC terminations on OHC.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • Cochlea / physiology*
  • Cochlear Nerve / cytology
  • Cochlear Nerve / physiology
  • Cochlear Nucleus / cytology
  • Cochlear Nucleus / physiology*
  • Efferent Pathways / cytology*
  • Efferent Pathways / physiology
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Hair Cells, Auditory, Inner / cytology
  • Hair Cells, Auditory, Inner / physiology
  • Interneurons / cytology
  • Interneurons / physiology
  • Neural Inhibition / physiology
  • Olivary Nucleus / cytology*
  • Olivary Nucleus / physiology
  • Pons / cytology*
  • Pons / physiology
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Reflex / physiology
  • Synapses / physiology