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Brain Res. 2002 Apr 26;934(1):58-68.

Spontaneous activity in rat vestibular nuclei in brain slices and effects of acetylcholine agonists and antagonists.

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Department of Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery, Medical College of Ohio, 3065 Arlington Avenue, Toledo, OH 43614, USA.


Extracellular recording was used to investigate spontaneously active neurons in all four major nuclei of the rat vestibular nuclear complex (VNC) in brainstem slices. The density of spontaneously active neurons was highest in the medial vestibular nucleus (MVN), slightly lower in the superior (SuVN) and spinal (SpVN) nuclei, and lowest in the lateral vestibular nucleus (LVN). We compared the effects of acetylcholine agonists and antagonists on spontaneously discharging neurons in MVN, SuVN, and SpVN with those in the nearby dorsal cochlear nucleus (DCN). The proportion of neurons responding to carbachol was greatest in DCN and smallest in SpVN. Unlike in DCN, some neurons in MVN, SuVN, and SpVN showed decreased firing during carbachol or muscarine. Magnitudes of responses to carbachol and muscarine were closely correlated (P<0.01). MVN neurons possessed nicotinic as well as muscarinic receptors. Activation of either type was unaffected by blocking synaptic transmission. The IC(50) values for the muscarinic subtype-preferential antagonists were compared, and tropicamide, preferential for M(4), was the most potent. Our results suggest that: (1) the relative numbers of spontaneously active neurons in rat VNC differ among nuclei; (2) acetylcholine agonists elicit changes in mean firing rates of neurons in MVN, SuVN and SpVN, but fewer neurons respond, and responses are smaller than in DCN; (3) both muscarinic and nicotinic acetylcholine receptors are present on MVN neurons, but muscarinic receptors may be more prominent.

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