The olivocochlear reflex strength and cochlear sensitivity are independently modulated by auditory cortex microstimulation

Constantino D. Dragicevic, Cristian Aedo, Alex León, Macarena Bowen, Natalia Jara, Gonzalo Terreros, Luis Robles, Paul H. Delano*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Citations (Scopus)


In mammals, efferent projections to the cochlear receptor are constituted by olivocochlear (OC) fibers that originate in the superior olivary complex. Medial and lateral OC neurons make synapses with outer hair cells and with auditory nerve fibers, respectively. In addition to the OC system, there are also descending projections from the auditory cortex that are directed towards the thalamus, inferior colliculus, cochlear nucleus, and superior olivary complex. Olivocochlear function can be assessed by measuring a brainstem reflex mediated by auditory nerve fibers, cochlear nucleus neurons, and OC fibers. Although it is known that the OC reflex is activated by contralateral acoustic stimulation and produces a suppression of cochlear responses, the influence of cortical descending pathways in the OC reflex is largely unknown. Here, we used auditory cortex electrical microstimulation in chinchillas to study a possible cortical modulation of cochlear and auditory nerve responses to tones in the absence and presence of contralateral noise. We found that cortical microstimulation produces two different peripheral modulations: (i) changes in cochlear sensitivity evidenced by amplitude modulation of cochlear microphonics and auditory nerve compound action potentials and (ii) enhancement or suppression of the OC reflex strength as measured by auditory nerve responses, which depended on the intersubject variability of the OC reflex. Moreover, both corticofugal effects were not correlated, suggesting the presence of two functionally different efferent pathways. These results demonstrate that auditory cortex electrical microstimulation independently modulates the OC reflex strength and cochlear sensitivity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)223-240
Number of pages18
JournalJARO - Journal of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • auditory cortex
  • corticofugal
  • efferent system
  • electrical microstimulation
  • olivocochlear
  • top-down


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