Anatomic evidence of a three-dimensional mosaic pattern of tonotopic organization in the ventral complex of the lateral lemniscus in cat
Malmierca MS., Leergaard TB., Bajo VM., Bjaalie JG., Merchan MA.
The ventral complex of the lateral lemniscus (VCLL, i.e., the ventral and intermediate nuclei) is composed of cells embedded in the fibers of the lateral lemniscus. These cells are involved in the processing of monaural information and receive input from the collaterals of the fibers ascending to the inferior colliculus. Whereas tonotopic organization is a feature of all other nuclei of the auditory system, this functional principle is debated in the VCLL. We have made focal injections of the tracer biotinylated dextran amine into different frequency band representations of the inferior colliculus in cat. Retrogradely labeled cells and terminal fibers (collaterals of efferent local axons and other ascending lemniscal fibers) were found in the ipsilateral VCLL. The spatial distribution of the labeling was analyzed using three-dimensional (3-D) reconstruction and computer graphical visualization techniques. A complex topographic organization was found. In all cases, labeled fibers and cells were distributed in multiple clusters throughout the dorsoventral extent of the VCLL. The shape, size, and location of the labeled clusters suggest an interdigitation of clusters assigned to different frequency-band representations. But an overall mediolateral distribution gradient was observed, with high frequencies represented medially and lower frequencies progressively more laterally. We conclude that the clusters may represent discontinuous frequency-band compartments as a counterpart to the continuous laminar compartments in the remaining auditory nuclei. The 3-D orderly mosaic pattern indicates that the VCLL preserves the spectral decomposition originated in the cochlea in a way that facilitates across-frequency integration.