The pathways ascending through the brain stem to the medial geniculate complex of the thalamus can be distinguished by immunostaining for the calcium binding proteins parvalbumin and calbindin and by the properties of the neurons in the subdivisions of the medial geniculate complex in which they terminate. The parvalbumin pathway, ascending from the central nucleus of the inferior colliculus, is the more direct and terminates in the ventral nucleus. The calbindin pathway is more diffuse in its origins and terminates in the dorsal and medial nuclei. Ventral nucleus neurons are sharply tuned, tonotopically organized and consistent in their responses. They project to core areas of the auditory cortex characterized by high parvalbumin immunoreactivity and by similar neuronal properties. Neurons in the dorsal and medial nuclei are not frequency specific or tonotopic and are labile in their responses. They project more diffusely to belt areas of the auditory cortex in which parvalbumin immunoreactivity is reduced and in which neuronal responses are less specific than in the core. The belt areas are the origins of streams of corticocortical connections leading into the temporal, parietal, and frontal lobes. These routes can be differentially engaged in functional imaging studies of monkeys responding to biologically significant sounds.