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Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2013 Oct 1;305(7):R793-803. doi: 10.1152/ajpregu.00549.2012. Epub 2013 May 29.

Orientation within a high magnetic field determines swimming direction and laterality of c-Fos induction in mice.

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  • 1Department of Biological Science, Program in Neuroscience, The Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida; and.


High-strength static magnetic fields (>7 tesla) perturb the vestibular system causing dizziness, nystagmus, and nausea in humans; and head motion, locomotor circling, conditioned taste aversion, and c-Fos induction in brain stem vestibular nuclei in rodents. To determine the role of head orientation, mice were exposed for 15 min within a 14.1-tesla magnet at six different angles (mice oriented parallel to the field with the head toward B+ at 0°; or pitched rostrally down at 45°, 90°, 90° sideways, 135°, and 180°), followed by a 2-min swimming test. Additional mice were exposed at 0°, 90°, and 180° and processed for c-Fos immunohistochemistry. Magnetic field exposure induced circular swimming that was maximal at 0° and 180° but attenuated at 45° and 135°. Mice exposed at 0° and 45° swam counterclockwise, whereas mice exposed at 135° and 180° swam clockwise. Mice exposed at 90° (with their rostral-caudal axis perpendicular to the magnetic field) did not swim differently than controls. In parallel, exposure at 0° and 180° induced c-Fos in vestibular nuclei with left-right asymmetries that were reversed at 0° vs. 180°. No significant c-Fos was induced after 90° exposure. Thus, the optimal orientation for magnetic field effects is the rostral-caudal axis parallel to the field, such that the horizontal canal and utricle are also parallel to the field. These results have mechanistic implications for modeling magnetic field interactions with the vestibular apparatus of the inner ear (e.g., the model of Roberts et al. of an induced Lorenz force causing horizontal canal cupula deflection).


brain stem; c-Fos; magnetic field; swimming; vestibular

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