Forebrain pathway for auditory space processing in the barn owl

J Neurophysiol. 1998 Feb;79(2):891-902. doi: 10.1152/jn.1998.79.2.891.


The forebrain plays an important role in many aspects of sound localization behavior. Yet, the forebrain pathway that processes auditory spatial information is not known for any species. Using standard anatomic labeling techniques, we used a "top-down" approach to trace the flow of auditory spatial information from an output area of the forebrain sound localization pathway (the auditory archistriatum, AAr), back through the forebrain, and into the auditory midbrain. Previous work has demonstrated that AAr units are specialized for auditory space processing. The results presented here show that the AAr receives afferent input from Field L both directly and indirectly via the caudolateral neostriatum. Afferent input to Field L originates mainly in the auditory thalamus, nucleus ovoidalis, which, in turn, receives input from the central nucleus of the inferior colliculus. In addition, we confirmed previously reported projections of the AAr to the basal ganglia, the external nucleus of the inferior colliculus (ICX), the deep layers of the optic tectum, and various brain stem nuclei. A series of inactivation experiments demonstrated that the sharp tuning of AAr sites for binaural spatial cues depends on Field L input but not on input from the auditory space map in the midbrain ICX: pharmacological inactivation of Field L eliminated completely auditory responses in the AAr, whereas bilateral ablation of the midbrain ICX had no appreciable effect on AAr responses. We conclude, therefore, that the forebrain sound localization pathway can process auditory spatial information independently of the midbrain localization pathway.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Auditory Pathways / anatomy & histology
  • Auditory Pathways / physiology*
  • Birds / anatomy & histology
  • Birds / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Mesencephalon / anatomy & histology
  • Mesencephalon / physiology
  • Sound Localization / physiology*
  • Telencephalon / anatomy & histology
  • Telencephalon / physiology*


  • Fluorescent Dyes