Physiology of Single Putative Cochlear Efferents in the Chicken

J Neurophysiol. 1994 Dec;72(6):2966-79. doi: 10.1152/jn.1994.72.6.2966.


1. An experimental approach was developed that allowed recording of neurophysiological activity from single putative cochlear efferents in the auditory brain stem of anesthetized chickens with the use of glass micropipettes. The aim of this study was to study spontaneous and tone-evoked activity from single efferent neurons in the chick and to compare their properties with those of other vertebrate hair cell organs. Because the birds, like mammals, have a complex hearing organ with different hair cell types and different afferent and efferent innervation, the purpose of this study was also to determine whether different types of efferents exist. 2. In the same electrode penetrations, putative trapezoid fibers were also isolated. In addition, the penetration angle permitted recordings from units in both cochlear nuclei, nucleus magnocellularis and nucleus angularis (probably mostly cochlear afferents), in the same animal. This allowed monitoring of the auditory sensitivity of the individual animal during the experiment. With the use of physiological criteria, it was possible to distinguish between trapezoid fibers and putative cochlear efferents. Possible alternative origins of the responses described are discussed. 3. Tuning curve characteristics of putative efferents were determined. They were as sensitive as ascending auditory neurons. Q10 dB values of efferent tuning curves were < 2.5 and thus showed poorer frequency selectivity than ascending fibers; in some cases they covered the entire hearing range of the chicken. 4. Latencies to tone pips were different for ascending neurons and putative efferent units. For trapezoid fibers and neurons from the cochlear nuclei, latencies usually did not exceed 5 ms, whereas latencies of efferents were always longer. 5. Because of the interaural canal that connects both middle ear cavities in birds, the measurement of the lateralization of the efferents was difficult. In any case, the majority of putative cochlear efferents responded more sensitively to sound stimulation of the contralateral side. 6. Of the efferent units, 28% showed no spontaneous activity. The others either showed regular spontaneous activity, or their time-interval histograms showed longer modes than ascending fibers. In general, mean spontaneous activity was lower than in ascending fibers, being < 30 spikes/s. 7. In contrast to reports from mammalian studies, in which efferents only showed on peristimulus time (PST) response pattern to tonal stimuli (chopper), two different response types were found in this study: two excitation types (chopper and primary-like) and one suppression type.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Animals
  • Chickens
  • Cochlea / physiology*
  • Evoked Potentials, Auditory / physiology
  • Histocytochemistry
  • Horseradish Peroxidase
  • Microelectrodes
  • Nerve Fibers / physiology
  • Neurons, Efferent / physiology*
  • Stereotaxic Techniques
  • Wheat Germ Agglutinin-Horseradish Peroxidase Conjugate
  • Wheat Germ Agglutinins


  • Wheat Germ Agglutinin-Horseradish Peroxidase Conjugate
  • Wheat Germ Agglutinins
  • Horseradish Peroxidase