Axons of medial olivocochlear neurones in the superior olivary complex terminate on the outer hair cells of the cochlea and also give off collaterals that terminate in the cochlear nucleus. Previous work in our laboratory, using extracellular recordings in the cochlear nucleus, has indicated that stimulation of the olivocochlear axons may have an excitatory effect on specific cell populations of the cochlear nucleus, such as onset-choppers, in contrast to the peripheral suppressive action of the same axons. We have investigated whether this excitation is produced by action of the olivocochlear collaterals in the cochlear nucleus or whether it is mediated via the peripheral suppression, by measuring intracellular responses in the rat cochlear nucleus to electrical stimulation of the olivocochlear axons in silence. The results demonstrate that single shocks applied to the olivocochlear axons can evoke excitatory postsynaptic potentials in onset neurones. We observed an inhibitory effect in one chopper only. In the same animals in all other neurones investigated (i.e. three primary-like neurones and eight choppers) the same stimulation was without any effect on cell membrane potential. We conclude that the excitatory effects in onset neurones are not caused by suppression in the auditory peripheral organ, but by activation of olivocochlear collaterals in the cochlear nucleus.