Two neuron types contact the Mauthner cell (M cell) in the axon cap, a specialized region of high electrical resistance surrounding the initial segment of the M cell axon. One type produces a mixed electrical and chemical inhibition of the M cell. The second sends axons into the central core of the axon cap, where they spiral around the initial segment making both conventional synapses and gap junction contacts. The origin and synaptic effects of these spiral fibers have not been studied previously. When goldfish M cells were filled with Lucifer yellow, presynaptic spiral fibers were seen in the axon cap. These fibers could be traced back through the medial longitudinal fasciculus to their somata, near the contralateral fifth nerve motor nucleus. The same somata were labeled by horseradish peroxidase injected extracellularly into the axon cap. Recordings were made in the axon cap and the M cell after stimulation of hindbrain areas near the spiral fiber somata and axons. Extracellularly, a negative potential was observed close to the termination of the spiral fibers and termed the spiral fiber potential (SFP). Intracellularly, a graded, short latency depolarization of the M cell corresponded to the SFP and could cause the M cell to spike. This depolarization did not shunt the membrane, indicating that it may be produced through gap junctions. Intracellular responses to hindbrain stimulation also had a chloride-dependent, second component that shunted the membrane during paired-pulse testing. This inhibitory second component was probably evoked by cells other than the spiral fiber cells themselves.