Medial olivocochlear (MOC) neurones, located in the superior olivary complex, can suppress cochlear gain by their action on the cochlear outer hair cells. Inputs from the contralateral cochlea and the inferior colliculus (IC) have been separately shown to increase activity of MOC neurones. In this study we have investigated in guinea-pigs under barbiturate anaesthesia the interactions between these two inputs by combining electrical stimulation of the IC with acoustic stimulation of the contralateral cochlea. Electrical stimulation of the IC resulted in a significant suppression of the amplitude of the compound action potential (CAP) of the auditory nerve to test tones. This suppression was equivalent to an average decrease in sound intensity of 5.7 dB and 3.7 dB for contralateral and ipsilateral stimulation, respectively. Acoustic stimulation of the contralateral cochlea with broadband noise produced no detectable change in the amplitude of the CAP in the test cochlea in all but one animal. However, simultaneous electrical stimulation of the IC and acoustic stimulation of the contralateral cochlea resulted in a reduction in CAP amplitude that was markedly larger than that produced by IC stimulation alone. The suppression with the addition of contralateral noise was equivalent to a mean reduction in sound intensity of 8.7 dB with contralateral and 5.7 dB with ipsilateral IC stimulation. We hypothesise that excitatory input from the contralateral cochlea converges with excitatory input from the IC on the MOC neurones and in this way augments the activity of these neurones, resulting in a larger peripheral effect. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.