The cochlear efferent system comprises multiple populations of brainstem neurons whose axons project to the cochlea, and whose responses to acoustic stimuli lead to regulation of auditory sensitivity. The major groups of efferent neurons are found in the superior olivary complex and are likely activated by neurons of the cochlear nucleus, thus forming a simple reflex pathway back to the cochlea. The peripheral actions of only one of these efferent cell types has been well described. Moreover, the efferent neurons are not well understood at the cellular- and circuit-levels. For example, ample demonstration of descending projections to efferent neurons raises the question of whether these additional inputs constitute a mechanism for modulation of relay function or instead play a more prominent role in driving the efferent response. Related to this is the question of synaptic plasticity at these synapses, which has the potential to differentially scale the degree of efferent activation across time, depending on the input pathway. This review will explore central nervous system aspects of the efferent system, the physiological properties of the neurons, their synaptic inputs, their modulation, and the effects of efferent axon collaterals within the brainstem.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sensory Systems