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J Comp Neurol. 2001 Apr 23;433(1):48-61.

Peripheral patterns of terminal innervation of vestibular primary afferent neurons projecting to the vestibulocerebellum in the gerbil.

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Department of Otolaryngology, The University of Texas Medical Branch, 7.102 Medical Research Building, 301 University Boulevard, Galveston, TX 77555-1063, USA.


Retrograde transganglionic labeling techniques with biotinylated dextran amine (BDA) were used to examine the terminal field structure and topographical patterns of innervation within the vestibular sensory end organs of vestibular primary afferent neurons projecting to the cerebellar uvula/nodulus and flocculus lobules in the gerbil. Robust, dark labeling in the cristae ampullares suggested that the vast majority of the terminals of afferent neurons were of the dimorphic type. The majority (94% to the uvula/nodulus and 100% to the flocculus) innervates the peripheral zones of each of the three semicircular canal cristae. Comparison of the type and distribution of terminals across the canalicular sensory neuroepithelium with morphophysiological studies in chinchilla suggests that the labeled population consists predominantly of peripheral terminal fields of lower-to-intermediate gain, more regularly firing, tonic afferents. For otolith organ-related afferents, the uvula/nodulus receives strong inputs from primary otolith afferent neurons identified as dimorphic in type that predominately innervate the peristriolar zones of the utricular and saccular maculae. No direct otolith organ-related inputs to the flocculus were observed. In contrast to the canal afferents, the types and locations of labeled otolith afferent terminals suggest that they largely consist of irregularly firing, high-gain, phasic neurons.

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