The outer hair cells of organ of Corti are innervated by the efferent neurons of medial olivocochlear neurons (MOC) of the brainstem which modify the cochlear auditory processing and sensitivity. Most of the MOC neurons are excited by a dominant ear and only a small portion of them is excited by both ears resulting in a binaural facilitation. The functional role of the feedback system between the organ of Corti and the cochlear efferent neurons is the protection of the ear from acoustic injury. The rapid impulse propagation in the bilateral olivocochlear system is suggestive of an electrotonic interaction between the bilateral olivocochlear neurons. The morphological background of the MOC pathway is not yet completely characterized. Therefore, we have labeled the bilateral cochlear nerves with different neuronal tracers in guinea pigs. In the anesthetized animals the cochlear nerves were exposed in the basal part of the modiolus and labeled simultaneously with different retrograde fluorescent tracers. By using confocal laser scanning microscope we could detect close appositions between the dendrites of the neurons of bilateral MOC. The distance between the neighboring profiles suggested close membrane appositions without interposing glial elements. These connections might serve as one of the underlying mechanisms of the binaural facilitation mediated by the olivocochlear system.
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