Auditory physiology and anatomy of octavolateral efferent neurons in a teleost fish

Seth M. Tomchik, Zhongmin Lu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Vertebrate hair cell systems receive innervation from efferent neurons in the brain. Here we report the responses of octavolateral efferent neurons that innervate the inner ear and lateral lines in a teleost fish, Dormitator latifrons, to directional linear accelerations, and compare them with the afferent responses from the saccule, the main auditory organ in the inner ear of this species. Efferent neurons responded to acoustic stimuli, but had significantly different response properties than saccular afferents. The efferents produced uniform, omnidirectional responses with no phase-locking. Evoked spike rates increased monotonically with stimulus intensity. Efferents were more broadly tuned and responsive to lower frequencies than saccular afferents, and efferent modulation of the otolithic organs and lateral lines is likely more pronounced at lower frequencies. The efferents had wide dynamic ranges, shallow rate-level function slopes, and low maximum discharge rates. These findings support the role of the efferent innervation of the otolithic organs as part of a general arousal system that modulates overall sensitivity of the peripheral octavolateral organs. In addition, efferent feedback may help unmask biologically relevant directional stimuli, such as those emitted by a predator, prey, or conspecific, by reducing sensitivity of the auditory system to omnidirectional ambient noise.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)51-67
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Comparative Physiology A: Neuroethology, Sensory, Neural, and Behavioral Physiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2006


  • Anatomy
  • Hearing
  • Otolith
  • Physiology
  • Vestibular

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)
  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Neuroscience(all)


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