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Wiring of divergent networks in the central auditory system.


Divergent axonal projections are found throughout the central auditory system. Here, we evaluate these branched projections in terms of their types, distribution, and putative physiological roles. In general, three patterns of axon collateralization are found: intricate local branching, long-distance collaterals, and branched axons (BAs) involved in feedback-control loops. Local collaterals in the auditory cortex may be involved in local processing and modulation of neuronal firing, while long-range collaterals are optimized for wide-dissemination of information. Rarely do axons branch to both ascending and descending targets. Branched projections to two or more widely separated nuclei or areas are numerically sparse but widespread. Finally, branching to contralateral targets is evident at multiple levels of the auditory pathway and may enhance binaural computations for sound localization. These patterns of axonal branching are comparable to those observed in other modalities. We conclude that the operations served by BAs are area- and nucleus-specific and may complement the divergent unbranched projections of local neuronal populations.

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