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Acetylcholine modulates responses throughout the auditory system, including at the earliest brain level, the cochlear nucleus (CN). Previous studies have shown multiple sources of cholinergic input to the CN but information about their relative contributions and the distribution of inputs from each source is lacking. Here, we used staining for cholinergic axons and boutons, retrograde tract tracing, and acetylcholine-selective anterograde tracing to characterize three sources of acetylcholine input to the CN in mice. Staining for cholinergic axons showed heavy cholinergic inputs to granule cell areas and the dorsal CN with lighter input to the ventral CN. Retrograde tract tracing revealed that cholinergic cells from the superior olivary complex, pontomesencephalic tegmentum, and lateral paragigantocellular nucleus send projections to the CN. When we selectively labeled cholinergic axons from each source to the CN, we found surprising similarities in their terminal distributions, with patterns that were overlapping rather than complementary. Each source heavily targeted granule cell areas and the dorsal CN (especially the deep dorsal CN) and sent light input into the ventral CN. Our results demonstrate convergence of cholinergic inputs from multiple sources in most regions of the CN and raise the possibility of convergence onto single CN cells. Linking sources of acetylcholine and their patterns of activity to modulation of specific cell types in the CN will be an important next step in understanding cholinergic modulation of early auditory processing. Copyright © 2023 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


Nichole L Beebe, Yoani N Herrera, William A Noftz, Michael T Roberts, Brett R Schofield. Characterization of three cholinergic inputs to the cochlear nucleus. Journal of chemical neuroanatomy. 2023 Sep;131:102284

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PMID: 37164181

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