Retrograde transport of horseradish peroxidase was combined with immunocytochemistry to identify the origins of potential gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) -ergic and glycinergic inputs to different subdivisions of the cochlear nucleus. Projection neurons in the inferior colliculus, superior olivary complex, and contralateral cochlear nucleus were examined, but only those from the superior olivary complex contained significant numbers of GABA- or glycine-immunoreactive neurons. The majority of these were in periolivary nuclei ipsilaterally, with a sizeable contribution from the contralateral ventral nucleus of the trapezoid body. Overall, 80% of olivary neurons projecting to the cochlear nucleus were immunoreactive for GABA, glycine, or both. Most glycine-immunoreactive projection neurons were located ipsilaterally, in the lateral and ventral nuclei of the trapezoid body and the dorsal periolivary nucleus. This suggests that glycine is the predominant neurotransmitter used by ipsilateral olivary projections. Most GABA-immunoreactive cells were located bilaterally in the ventral nuclei of the trapezoid body. The contralateral olivary projection was primarily GABA-immunoreactive and provided almost half the GABA-immunoreactive projections to the cochlear nucleus. This suggests that GABA is the predominant neurotransmitter used by contralateral olivary projections. The present results suggest that the superior olivary complex is the most important extrinsic source of inhibitory inputs to the cochlear nucleus. Individual periolivary nuclei differ in the strength and the transmitter content of their projections to the cochlear nucleus and may perform different roles in acoustic processing in the cochlear nucleus.