Reduced neuronal size and dendritic length in the medial superior olivary nucleus of albino rabbits

Brain Res. 1986 Jan 15;363(1):28-37. doi: 10.1016/0006-8993(86)90655-4.


We have previously demonstrated that circumscribed structural and functional abnormalities exist in the brainstem auditory system of albino cats. Anomalies in the auditory brainstem evoked response of albino cats were correlated with anatomical defects in the medial superior olivary nucleus (MSO) of the same animals. To examine whether a similar syndrome is present in other albino mammals, we studied the MSO of albino and pigmented rabbits using both Nissl-stained and Golgi-impregnated material. Neurons in the MSO of the albinos were significantly smaller (24%) than those in the pigmented rabbits and there was no overlap in the size distributions between the two groups. Neurons in the abducens nucleus of the albinos were also 14% smaller than in the pigmented rabbits, but this difference was not statistically reliable. The broad overlap in the distributions of neuronal size in the abducens nucleus between groups indicated that not all cells in the albino brainstem are significantly smaller than normal. In the Golgi-impregnated material, the mean total dendritic length for the 'marginal' cell type in the MSO was 39% shorter in albinos than in the pigmented animals. The branching density of dendrites was also significantly reduced in the albinos. Mean total dendritic length for cerebellar granule cells was a statistically insignificant 6% longer in the albinos, demonstrating that dendritic structure is not uniformly affected in all regions of the albino brain. The demonstration of similar anatomical differences in albino rabbits and cats indicates that whatever process produces these effects is not species-specific and may be common to the albinos of other mammalian species. The evidence that the amount of cochlear melanin may be related to differences in auditory function further suggests that the differences in the MSO of the albinos may ultimately be related to absence of inner ear pigmentation and not to other gene effects.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Albinism / pathology*
  • Animals
  • Auditory Pathways / pathology
  • Cats
  • Cerebellar Cortex / pathology
  • Cochlea / analysis
  • Dendrites / pathology
  • Hearing Loss, Noise-Induced / pathology
  • Melanins / analysis
  • Mice
  • Olivary Nucleus / pathology*
  • Rabbits
  • Rats
  • Species Specificity


  • Melanins