Introduction to Efferent Systems

  • David K. Ryugo
Part of the Springer Handbook of Auditory Research book series (SHAR, volume 38)


Organisms must learn what representations in the world are important – that is, which sights, smells, and sounds indicate safety, food, or danger. Knowledge of what is and is not important is acquired by information arising from the sensory organs, and this knowledge is then acted upon by the motor system, expressed by approach or avoidance behavior. A loud “Hey you!” will evoke a strikingly different motor and autonomic response compared to that of a sultry “Hello, handsome.” Likewise, a patron can ignore the sounds inside a busy restaurant but not when his name is being called. Stimuli that have no immediate significance become relegated to “background noise” and can be disregarded. During our lifetimes, we learn about stimuli and stimulus context. The sound and sight of gunshots in the street are generally different from those experienced in a movie theater. Stimulus content and context are presumably processed in the cerebral hemispheres, where significance is established.


Hair Cell Auditory Nerve Fiber Interaural Level Difference Superior Olivary Complex Efferent System 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The author was supported in part by NIH grants DC004395 and DC000232, a grant from Advanced Bionics Corporation, and a Life Science Research Award from the Office of Science and Medical Research, New South Wales, Australia.


  1. Aitkin LM, Irvine DRF, Webster WR (1984) Central neural mechanisms of hearing. In: Brookhart JM, Mountcastle VB (eds) Handbook of physiology – the nervous system. American Physiological Society, Bethesda, pp 675–737Google Scholar
  2. Antonini A, Fagiolini M, Stryker MP (1999) Anatomical correlates of functional plasticity in mouse visual cortex. J Neurosci 19:4388–4406PubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Barmack NH (2003) Central vestibular system: vestibular nuclei and posterior cerebellum. Brain Res Bull 60:511–541CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Bricaud O, Chaar V, Dambly-Chaudiere C, Ghysen A (2001) Early efferent innervation of the zebrafish lateral line. J Comp Neurol 434:253–261CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Brichta AM, Goldberg JM (2000) Responses to efferent activation and excitatory response-intensity relations of turtle posterior-crista afferents. J Neurophysiol 83:1224–1242PubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Brown MC (1987) Morphology of labeled efferent fibers in the guinea pig cochlea. J Comp Neurol 260:605–618CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Canedo A (1997) Primary motor cortex influences on the descending and ascending systems. Prog Neurobiol 51:287–335CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Card JP, Sved JC, Craig B, Raizada M, Vazquez J, Sved AF (2006) Efferent projections of rat rostroventrolateral medulla C1 catecholamine neurons: implications for the central control of cardiovascular regulation. J Comp Neurol 499:840–859CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Cooper NP, Guinan JJ Jr (2006) Efferent-mediated control of basilar membrane motion. J Physiol 576:49–54CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Cullen KE, Minor LB (2002) Semicircular canal afferents similarly encode active and passive head-on-body rotations: implications for the role of vestibular efference. J Neurosci 22:RC226PubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Dallos P (1997) Outer hair cells: the inside story. Ann Otol Rhinol Laryngol Suppl 168:16–22PubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Darrow KN, Maison SF, Liberman MC (2006) Cochlear efferent feedback balances interaural sensitivity. Nat Neurosci 9:1474–1476CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Dewson JH III (1967) Efferent olivocochlear bundle: some relationships to noise masking and to stimulus attenuation. J Neurophysiol 30:817–832PubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Evans EF (1975) Cochlear nerve and cochlear nucleus. In: Keidel WD, Neff WD (eds) Handbook of sensory physiology, vol 5/2. Springer, Berlin, pp 1–108Google Scholar
  15. Flock A, Russell I (1976) Inhibition by efferent nerve fibres: action on hair cells and afferent synaptic transmission in the lateral line canal organ of the burbot Lota lota. J Physiol 257:45–62PubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Fritzsch B, Pirvola U, Ylikoski J (1999) Making and breaking the innervation of the ear: neurotrophic support during ear development and its clinical implications. Cell Tissue Res 295:369–382CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Fuchs PA, Murrow BW (1992) A novel cholinergic receptor mediates inhibition of chick cochlear hair cells. Proc Biol Sci 248:35–40CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Galambos R (1956) Suppression of auditory nerve activity by stimulation of efferent fibers to cochlea. J Neurophysiol 19:424–437PubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Gao E, Suga N (1998) Experience-dependent corticofugal adjustment of midbrain frequency map in bat auditory system. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 95:12663–12670CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Ghazanfar AA, Krupa DJ, Nicolelis MA (2001) Role of cortical feedback in the receptive field structure and nonlinear response properties of somatosensory thalamic neurons. Exp Brain Res 141:88–100CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Goldberg JM, Fernández C (1980) Efferent vestibular system in the squirrel monkey: anatomical location and influence on afferent activity. J Neurophysiol 43:986–1025PubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Granit R (1955) Centrifugal and antidromic effects on ganglion cells of retina. J Neurophysiol 18:388–411PubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Guillery RW (1969) The organization of synaptic interconnections in the laminae of the dorsal lateral geniculate nucleus of the cat. Z Zellforsch Mikrosk Anat 96:1–38CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Guinan JJ Jr (1996) The physiology of olivocochlear efferents. In: Dallos PJ, Popper AN, Fay RR (eds) The cochlea. Springer, New York, pp 432–435Google Scholar
  25. Hagbarth KE, Kerr DI (1954) Central influences on spinal afferent conduction. J Neurophysiol 17:295–307PubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Highstein SM (1992) The efferent control of the organs of balance and equilibrium in the toadfish, Opsanus tau. Ann NY Acad Sci 656:108–123CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Jabbur SJ, Towe AL (1961) Cortical excitation of neurons in dorsal column nuclei of cat, including an analysis of pathways. J Neurophysiol 24:499–509PubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Jones EG (2002) Thalamic circuitry and thalamocortical synchrony. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 357:1659–1673CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Katz LC, Shatz CJ (1996) Synaptic activity and the construction of cortical circuits. Science 274:1133–1138CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Kiang NY-S, Watanabe T, Thomas EC, Clark LF (1965) Discharge patterns of single fibers in the cat’s auditory nerve. MIT, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  31. Krupa DJ, Ghazanfar AA, Nicolelis MA (1999) Immediate thalamic sensory plasticity depends on corticothalamic feedback. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 96:8200–8205CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. Landry P, Dykes RW (1985) Identification of two populations of corticothalamic neurons in cat primary somatosensory cortex. Exp Brain Res 60:289–298CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. Mackay DM (1956) Towards an information-flow model of huan behaviour. Br J Psychol 47:30–43PubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. Maison SF, Liberman MC (2000) Predicting vulnerability to acoustic injury with a noninvasive assay of olivocochlear reflex strength. J Neurosci 20:4701–4707PubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Malmierca MS, Ryugo DK (2010) Descending connections to the midbrain and brainstem. In: Winer JA, Schreiner CE (eds) The Auditory Cortex. Springer, New York (in press)Google Scholar
  36. Marlinski V, Plotnik M, Goldberg JM (2004) Efferent actions in the chinchilla vestibular labyrinth. JARO 5:126–143CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  37. Marrocco RT, McClurkin JW, Alkire MT (1996) The influence of the visual cortex on the spatiotemporal response properties of lateral geniculate nucleus cells. Brain Res 737:110–118CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. Martinez-Lorenzana G, Machin R, Avendano C (2001) Definite segregation of cortical neurons projecting to the dorsal column nuclei in the rat. Neuroreport 12:413–416CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. Matesz C, Kulik A, Bacskai T (2002) Ascending and descending projections of the lateral vestibular nucleus in the frog Rana esculenta. J Comp Neurol 444:115–128CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. McCue MP, Guinan JJ Jr (1994) Influence of efferent stimulation on acoustically responsive vestibular afferents in the cat. J Neurosci 14:6071–6083PubMedGoogle Scholar
  41. Meltzer NE, Ryugo DK (2006) Projections from auditory cortex to cochlear nucleus: a comparative analysis of rat and mouse. Anat Rec A Discov Mol Cell Evol Biol 288:397–408PubMedGoogle Scholar
  42. Menétrey D, Basbaum AI (1987) Spinal and trigeminal projections to the nucleus of the solitary tract: a possible substrate for somatovisceral and viscerovisceral reflex activation. J Comp Neurol 255:439–450CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. Mulders WH, Paolini AG, Needham K, Robertson D (2009) Synaptic responses in cochlear nucleus neurons evoked by activation of the olivocochlear system. Hear Res 256:85–92CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  44. Murphy PC, Sillito AM (1987) Corticofugal feedback influences the generation of length tuning in the visual pathway. Nature 329:727–729CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  45. Oertel D, Young ED (2004) What’s a cerebellar circuit doing in the auditory system. Trends Neurosci 27:104–110CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  46. Parks TN, Rubel EW, Fay RR, Popper AN (eds) (2004) Plasticity of the auditory system. Springer, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  47. Popper AN, Fay RR (eds) (2005) Sound source localization. Springer, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  48. Ramón y Cajal R (1909) Histologie du Système Nerveux de l’Homme et des Vertébrés. Instituto Ramón y Cajal, Madrid, pp 774–838Google Scholar
  49. Rapisarda C, Palmeri A, Sapienza S (1992) Cortical modulation of thalamo-cortical neurons relaying exteroceptive information: a microstimulation study in the guinea pig. Exp Brain Res 88:140–150CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  50. Rasmussen GL (1946) The olivary peduncle and other fiber projections of the superior olivary complex. J Comp Neurol 84:141–219CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  51. Rasmussen GL (1953) Further observations of the efferent cochlear bundle. J Comp Neurol 99:61–74CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  52. Roberts BL, Meredith GE (1992) The efferent innervation of the ear: variations on an enigma. In: Webster DB, Fay RR, Popper AN (eds) The evolutionary biology of hearing. Springer, New York, pp 185–210Google Scholar
  53. Ruel J, Nouvian R, Gervais d’Aldin C, Pujol R, Eybalin M, Puel JL (2001) Dopamine inhibition of auditory nerve activity in the adult mammalian cochlea. Eur J Neurosci 14:977–986CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  54. Ruel J, Wang J, Dememes D, Gobaille S, Puel JL, Rebillard G (2006) Dopamine transporter is essential for the maintenance of spontaneous activity of auditory nerve neurones and their responsiveness to sound stimulation. J Neurochem 97:190–200CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  55. Sarnat HB, Netsky MG (1974) Evolution of the nervous system. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  56. Sato M, Stryker MP (2008) Distinctive features of adult ocular dominance plasticity. J Neurosci 28:10278–10286CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  57. Schrott-Fischer A, Kammen-Jolly K, Scholtz A, Rask-Andersen H, Glueckert R, Eybalin M (2007) Efferent neurotransmitters in the human cochlea and vestibule. Acta Otolaryngol 127:13–19CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  58. Sherman SM, Guillery RW (2002) The role of the thalamus in the flow of information to the cortex. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 357:1695–1708CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  59. Sillito AM, Jones HE, Gerstein GL, West DC (1994) Feature-linked synchronization of thalamic relay cell firing induced by feedback from the visual cortex. Nature 369:479–482CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  60. Simmons DD (2002) Development of the inner ear efferent system across vertebrate species. J Neurobiol 53:228–250CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  61. Suga N, Xiao Z, Ma X, Ji W (2002) Plasticity and corticofugal modulation for hearing in adult animals. Neuron 36:9–18CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  62. Tsuchitani C (1977) Functional organization of lateral cell groups of the cat superior olivary complex. J Neurophysiol 40:296–318PubMedGoogle Scholar
  63. Van der Loos H, Woolsey TA (1973) Somatosensory cortex: structural alterations following early injury to sense organs. Science 179:395–398CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  64. Van Horn SC, Erisir A, Sherman SM (2000) Relative distribution of synapses in the A-laminae of the lateral geniculate nucleus of the cat. J Comp Neurol 416:509–520CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  65. Varela FJ, Singer W (1987) Neuronal dynamics in the visual corticothalamic pathway revealed through binocular rivalry. Exp Brain Res 66:10–20CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  66. Waleszczyk WJ, Bekisz M, Wrobel A (2005) Cortical modulation of neuronal activity in the cat’s lateral geniculate and perigeniculate nuclei. Exp Neurol 196:54–72CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  67. Wang X, Wall JT (2005) Cortical influences on sizes and rapid plasticity of tactile receptive fields in the dorsal column nuclei. J Comp Neurol 489:241–248CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  68. Wang JY, Chang JY, Woodward DJ, Baccala LA, Han JS, Luo F (2007) Corticofugal influences on thalamic neurons during nociceptive transmission in awake rats. Synapse 61:335–342CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  69. Warr WB, Guinan JJ (1979) Efferent innervation of the organ of Corti: two separate systems. Brain Res 173:152–155CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  70. Webster DB, Fay RR, Popper AN (1992) The evolutionary biology of hearing. Springer, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  71. Weisberg JA, Rustioni A (1976) Cortical cells projecting to the dorsal column nuclei of cats. An anatomical study with the horseradish peroxidase technique. J Comp Neurol 168:425–437CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  72. Weisberg JA, Rustioni A (1977) Cortical cells projecting to the dorsal column nuclei of rhesus monkeys. Exp Brain Res 28:521–528CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  73. Weisberg JA, Rustioni A (1979) Differential projections of cortical sensorimotor areas upon the dorsal column nuclei of cats. J Comp Neurol 184:401–421CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  74. Wiederhold ML, Kiang NYS (1970) Effects of electrical stimulation of the crossed olivocochlear bundle on single auditory-nerve fibers in the cat. J Acoust Soc Am 48:950–965CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  75. Winer JA, Lee CC (2007) The distributed auditory cortex. Hear Res 229:3–13CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  76. Woolston DC, La Londe JR, Gibson JM (1983) Corticofugal influences in the rat on responses of neurons in the trigeminal nucleus interpolaris to mechanical stimulation. Neurosci Lett 36:43–48CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  77. Yan W, Suga N (1998) Corticofugal modulation of the midbrain frequency map in the bat auditory system. Nat Neurosci 1:54–58CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  78. Yan J, Zhang Y, Ehret G (2005) Corticofugal shaping of frequency tuning curves in the central nucleus of the inferior colliculus of mice. J Neurophysiol 93:71–83CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Garvan Institute of Medical ResearchProgram in NeuroscienceDarlinghurstAustralia
  2. 2.Center for Hearing and BalanceJohns Hopkins University School of MedicineBaltimoreUSA

Personalised recommendations