Neuronal architecture in nucleus magnocellularis of the chicken auditory system with observations on nucleus laminaris: a light and electron microscope study

Neuroscience. 1982 Apr;7(4):809-36. doi: 10.1016/0306-4522(82)90045-8.


This report presents the major structural features of neurons and their afferent input in nucleus magnocellularis, the avian homologue of the mammalian anteroventral cochlear nucleus. Results of light-microscope observations, as seen in Golgi, Nissl, and normal fiber preparations, as well as ultrastructural morphology are reported. In addition, cells and axons in nucleus laminaris, the presumed homologue of the mammalian medial superior olivary nucleus, are also described. In Golgi-impregnated material, the mature principal cell in nucleus magnocellularis has an ovoid soma encrusted with somatic spines. A dendrite, when present, emerges from the cell soma, travels for a short distance and breaks into a tuft of stubby terminal branches. Foremost among the afferents to nucleus magnocellularis are auditory nerve axons that terminate in large, axosomatic endings, or end-bulbs, covering a large portion of the somatic surface. Other afferents, which also end in relation to the perikaryon, are of undetermined and perhaps multiple origins. The neurons resemble the bushy cells of the mammalian anteroventral cochlear nucleus. Evidence is presented that individual axons from the nucleus magnocellularis bifurcate and send branches to the nucleus laminaris bilaterally, thus placing constraints on the binaural interactions possibly involved in lateralization functions. In electron micrographs, the end-bulbs appear as large, elongate structures which can cover a third of the cell soma. Multiple sites of synaptic specialization occur along these terminals. The synaptic membrane complexes may form directly on the cell body or on the sides or crests of somatic spines. These complexes are characterized by asymmetric membrane densities with a cluster of clear, spherical vesicles on the axonal side. Other small terminal profiles are also present on the somata receiving the end-bulbs. Dendritic profiles are scarce, in agreement with observations in Golgi impregnations. The structural findings indicate that the medial part of the nucleus magnocellularis is homologous to the anterior part of the mammalian anteroventral cochlear nucleus in that the neurons of nucleus magnocellularis are homologous to the bushy cells of the cat. On this basis, the cells in nucleus magnocellularis could faithfully preserve the acoustic response patterns generated in the auditory nerve. This should, in turn, allow a secure relay of bilateral latency differences essential for binaural interactions in the nucleus laminaris.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Auditory Pathways / anatomy & histology*
  • Auditory Pathways / cytology
  • Auditory Pathways / ultrastructure
  • Biological Evolution
  • Chickens / anatomy & histology*
  • Cochlear Nerve / anatomy & histology
  • Dendrites / ultrastructure
  • Microscopy, Electron