Descending Connections of Auditory Cortex to the Midbrain and Brain Stem



Descending pathways in the brain have been known, since the end of the nineteenth century (Held 1891) but their significance was unappreciated due to the focus on ascending pathways and the unsuitability of the tract tracing methods then available to reveal these projections. Renewed interest was triggered by the discovery of the olivocochlear bundle (Rasmussen 1946, 1953), and interest surged as the magnitude of the descending pathways emerged (Bourassa et al. 1997; Winer 2006). The auditory cortex (AC) projects to a wide range of subcortical targets in the auditory pathway (Winer 2006; Winer and Lee 2007). By far, the projections to the auditory thalamus and midbrain are the largest and the projections to subcollicular nuclei such as nucleus sagulum, the paraleminscal regions, superior olivary complex (SOC), cochlear nuclear complex (CNC), and pontine nuclei (PN) were not appreciated until recently (Feliciano and Potashner 1995; Weedman and Ryugo 1996; Doucet et al. 2002; Doucet et al. 2003; Meltzer and Ryugo 2006; Perales et al. 2006). The AC also projects to subcortical forebrain structures such as the amygdala (Romanski and LeDoux 1993), the basal ganglia, and premotor structures including the striatum (Beneyto and Prieto 2001), superior colliculus (Paula-Barbosa and Sousa-Pinto 1973), and central gray (Winer et al. 1998), suggesting that the AC has an important role not only in sensory processing of audition, but also in motor behavior, autonomic function, and state dependent changes (Winer 2006).



primary auditory cortex


auditory cortex


biotinylated dextran amines


best frequency


cochlear nuclear complex


central of the inferior colliculus


dorsal cochlear nucleus


dorsal cortex of the inferior colliculus


dorsal nucleus of the lateral lemniscus


Doppler-shifted constant frequency


external cortex of the inferior colliculus


electrical stimulation


g-aminobutyric acid


inferior colliculus


inner hair cell


lateral olivocochlear bundle


lateral superior olive


medial geniculate body


medial olivocochlear bundle


nucleus basalis


nuclei of the lateral lemniscus


outer hair cell


Phaseolus vulgaris-leucoagglutinin


pontine nuclei


superior olivary complex


superior paraolivary nucleus


ventral cochlear nucleus


ventral nucleus of the lateral lemniscus


ventral nucleus of the trapezoid body



Supported by grants from the Spanish MEC (BFU2009-07286), EU (EUI2009-04083) and JCYL-UE (GR221) to MSM to Manuel S. Malmierca, and NIH grants DC00232 and DC04395 and a Life Sciences Research Award from the Office for Science and Medicine, NSW, to David K. Ryugo. We are grateful to our colleagues whose work made this review possible.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Auditory Neurophysiology Unit, Laboratory for the Neurobiology of Hearing, Faculty of MedicineInstitute for Neuroscience of Castilla y León, and Dept Cell Biology and Pathology, Med School, University of SalamancaSalamancaSpain
  2. 2.Program for NeuroscienceGarvan Institute of Medical ResearchDarlinghurstAustralia

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