Nelson Yuan-sheng Kiang
MIT, Harvard Med. School, Cambridge, MA
Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA
The mammalian auditory nerve represents both the informational output of the ear and the input to the brain. Hallowell Davis was one of the pioneers in recording the electrical manifestations of auditory-nerve activity. He and his colleagues carried such studies from their virtual inception to eventual success in recording from single fibers and in so doing built a theoretical framework upon which to interpret data. Since his efforts, some of the physiological data have been expanded or corrected, new anatomical results have been incorporated and major revisions in theory have been proposed. Some of these advances have changed our understanding of how auditory-nerve responses arise and others have improved our understanding of what information is available to the central nervous system. This paper will review such progress including topics such as feedback mechanisms, comparative aspects, developmental ideas, and practical implications. Far from being an exhausted area for research, the auditory nerve continues to challenge experimentalists and theoreticians alike in posing problems that Davis foresaw but still remain unsolved.