Development of the human fetal cochlear nerve: A morphometric study

Bappaditya Ray, Tara Sankar Roy, Shashi Wadhwa, Kallol Kumar Roy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

29 Scopus citations

Abstract

Ontogenesis of the human peripheral auditory pathway is relatively less explored. While the distal part of the auditory perception apparatus (i.e. the cochlea) received attention, studies on the neural element carrying information to the brainstem (i.e. the cochlear nerve) are scarce. In the present study, axonal differentiation, maturation and myelination of the distal end of the human cochlear nerve (CN) were assessed using light and electron microscopy. Seven human fetuses of 12, 15, 18, 20, 22, 28 and 38 weeks' gestation (WG) were analyzed. Light microscopy revealed nerve fascicles as early as 12 WG, initially arranged loosely but later compacted by 18 WG. Myelinated fibers were clearly detected at 28 WG. Ultrastructurally, at 12 WG developing Schwann cells were present between the thin unmyelinated axons. At 15 WG, the fascicular arrangement was distinct with blood vessels in the perineurium. The maximum number of axons was found at 20 WG, which subsequently reduced to reach the adult level at 22 WG. The myelinated axons in the CN were first observed on the left side at 20 WG, following which the number and proportion of myelinated axons increased until term, incorporating both small and large axons. The right CN lagged behind in maturation. Axon size also increased with age. Thus, the maturation of the human CN commences during the mid-gestation period and produces exuberant axons that are eventually pruned at a time when axons start to myelinate. During this developmental period the human CN maintains maturational asymmetry, the functional consequences of which remain to be elucidated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)74-86
Number of pages13
JournalHearing Research
Volume202
Issue number1-2
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2005
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Asymmetry
  • Auditory nerve
  • Myelination
  • Ontogeny
  • Stereology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sensory Systems

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