We have studied the posterior division of the anteroventral cochlear nucleus, where the cochlear nerve root enters the brain, in the cat. In Nissl preparations, this region contains two types of neuronal cell bodies: globular and multipolar. The two types can be identified in the electron-microscope by comparing Nissl substance and rough endoplasmic reticulum. Globular cell bodies receive many synaptic terminals, which cover 85% of the surface. In contrast, multipolar cell bodies are almost entirely wrapped by thin glial sheets-synaptic terminals contact less than 15% of the surface and tend to cluster at the bases of dendrites. Synaptic terminals are of three kinds, types 1, 2, and 3, which contain large round, small round-to-oval, and small flattened synaptic vesicles, respectively. Terminals of all three kinds synapse on both types of cell bodies. However, only globular cell bodies receive the largest type 1 terminals, which correspond to end-bulbs, seen in Golgi impregnations to arise from cochlear nerve axons. Cochlear ablation leads to degeneration of type 1, but not type 2 or 3 terminals. We conclude that neurons with globular cell bodies receive heavy somatic input from the cochlear nerve, as well as from other sources. Neurons with multipolar cell bodies receive very little input to their perikarya-giving their dendrites a more important role in determining their response properties. We suggest a morphological basis for correlating individual kinds of neurons with certain electrophysiological response types.
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