The responses of guinea pig cochlear nucleus neurons to in vivo iontophoretic application of various neurotransmitter agonists were recorded with extracellular multi-barrelled electrodes. Where possible, neurons were physiologically identified using strict criteria. Emphasis was placed on the action of cholinergic agonists in relation to the possible action of olivocochlear collateral innervation. Excitatory responses (increase in action potential firing) to glutamate were confirmed in a number of neuronal response types. Application of acetylcholine (ACh) or the broad spectrum cholinergic agonist carbachol produced reliable excitatory responses in about 47% of neurons (n = 29 out of 61 neurons). The remaining neurons were unresponsive to cholinergic agonists and no inhibitory responses were observed. Cholinergic responses were more common in dorsal cochlear nucleus (DCN) (73% of 30 neurons tested) than in ventral cochlear nucleus (VCN) (23% of 31 neurons). Of the total neuron sample in which cholinergic responses were investigated, 41 neurons were able to be categorized according to established acoustic response features. Excitatory responses to cholinergic agonists were seen in "Pauser-buildup" (Pb) and "Transient chopper" (Ct) response types. Primary-like neurons (PL and Pn) as well as "Onset chopper" (Oc) neurons (n = 6) were unresponsive to either ACh or carbachol. Oc neurons also did not show any effect on their acoustic responses. Robust cholinergic responses were also seen in several VCN and DCN neurons that were either unresponsive to sound, or had acoustic response properties that did not fit standard classification. The results suggest a relatively more robust cholinergic innervation of DCN compared to VCN. The excitatory cholinergic responses of some Ct neurons and the lack of effect on Oc neurons are consistent with previous results in mouse brain slice studies, but are in conflict with reports of medial olivocochlear collateral excitatory responses in onset-type neurons in vivo. The results also indicate that a number of neurons of unknown identity may also receive cholinergic input.
Keywords: Acetylcholine; Carbachol; Cochlear nucleus; In vivo response properties; Iontophoresis; Olivocochlear collaterals; Single neuron.
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