Gross electrical responses to tone bursts were measured in the guinea pig with electrodes located in scala tympani (ST) and scala vestibuli (SV) of the cochlea, on the central portion of the VIIIth nerve fibres in the internal auditory meatus, and on the surface of the cochlear nuclear complex (CN). Intracochlear perfusion of pharmacological blockers of neural and postsynaptic activity as well as aspiration of parts or all of the CN were used to dissect the origin of the many components of the gross responses. It was shown that single-ended recordings from either ST or SV or those derived from the sum of the ST and SV responses not only contain mixed responses from the auditory nerve fibres and cochlear hair cells, but are contaminated or modified by neural activity central to the internal auditory meatus, probably in various parts of the CN. Differential recordings between ST and SV were relatively uncontaminated by such activity. Recordings from central locations were largely uncontaminated by potentials from cochlear hair cells. These results suggest that a revised and extended system of nomenclature for the different components of the gross cochlear potentials is necessary, and interpretation of such potentials needs to take into account multiple central as well as peripheral generators. (C) 2002 Published by Elsevier Science B.V.