Indexed on: 16 Feb '11Published on: 16 Feb '11Published in: Neuroscience
Acetylcholine (Ach) affects a variety of cell types in the cochlear nucleus (CN) and is likely to play a role in numerous functions. Previous work in rats suggested that the acetylcholine arises from cells in the superior olivary complex, including cells that have axonal branches that innervate both the CN and the cochlea (i.e. olivocochlear cells) as well as cells that innervate only the CN. We combined retrograde tracing with immunohistochemistry for choline acetyltransferase to identify the source of ACh in the CN of guinea pigs. The results confirm a projection from cholinergic cells in the superior olivary complex to the CN. In addition, we identified a substantial number of cholinergic cells in the pedunculopontine tegmental nucleus (PPT) and the laterodorsal tegmental nucleus (LDT) that project to the CN. On average, the PPT and LDT together contained about 26% of the cholinergic cells that project to CN, whereas the superior olivary complex contained about 74%. A small number of additional cholinergic cells were located in other areas, including the parabrachial nuclei.The results highlight a substantial cholinergic projection from the pontomesencephalic tegmentum (PPT and LDT) in addition to a larger projection from the superior olivary complex. These different sources of cholinergic projections to the CN are likely to serve different functions. Projections from the superior olivary complex are likely to serve a feedback role, and may be closely tied to olivocochlear functions. Projections from the pontomesencephalic tegmentum may play a role in such things as arousal and sensory gating. Projections from each of these areas, and perhaps even the smaller sources of cholinergic inputs, may be important in conditions such as tinnitus as well as in normal acoustic processing.