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date: 24 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This article reviews descending projections that arise at each level of the auditory system. It focuses on pathways that both originate and terminate within the main ascending auditory pathways. Feedback loops, such as those formed by connections between the cortex and thalamus, prove to be important conceptual tools for understanding the descending systems. The article also considers the possibility of cognitive roles of descending systems, and these views incorporate the concept of descending chains or multisynaptic pathways that provide the anatomical substrate for higher order effects to be exerted all the way to the cochlea. It presents evidence for both loops and descending chains. The discussion begins with the olivocochlear system and progresses to successively higher levels of the auditory pathway. This system plays an important role in setting cochlear gain that may have implications for the interrelated issues of intensity encoding, dynamic range, masking, and hearing in noisy environments.

Keywords: descending projections, auditory system, feedback loops, olivocochlear system, cognitive roles

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