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Exp Brain Res. 1992;89(2):311-22.

Firing characteristics of vestibular nuclei neurons in the alert monkey after bilateral vestibular neurectomy.

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Department of Neurology, University of Z├╝rich, Switzerland.


After destruction of the peripheral vestibular system which is not activated by moving large-field visual stimulation, not only labyrinthine-ocular reflexes but also optokinetic-ocular responses related to the "velocity storage" mechanism are abolished. In the normal monkey optokinetic-ocular responses are reflected in sustained activity changes of central vestibular neurons within the vestibular nuclei. To account for the loss of optokinetic responses after labyrinthectomy, inactivation of central vestibular neurons consequent on the loss of primary vestibular activity is assumed to be of major importance. To test this hypothesis we recorded the neural activity within the vestibular nuclear complex in two chronically prepared Rhesus monkeys during a period from one up to 9 and 12 months after both vestibular nerves had been cut. The discharge characteristics of 829 cells were studied in relation to eye fixation, and to a moving small and large (optokinetic) visual stimulus producing smooth pursuit (SP) eye movements and optokinetic nystagmus (OKN). Units were grouped into different subclasses. After chronic bilateral vestibular neurectomy (BVN) we have found: (1) a rich variety of spontaneously active cells within the vestibular nuclear complex, which--as far as comparison before and after BVN is possible--belong to all subclasses of neurons functionally defined in normal monkey; and (2) no sustained activity changes which are related to the activation of the "velocity storage" mechanism; this is especially true for "pure-vestibular", "vestibular-pause" and "tonic-vestibular-pause" cells in normal monkey which show a "pure", "pause" and "tonic-pause" firing pattern after BVN. Neurons which are modulated by eye position are, however, modulated with the velocity of slow eye movements with comparable sensitivity during SP and OKN. Retinal slip is extremely rarely encoded. The results of the present study do not directly answer the question why the "velocity storage" mechanism is abolished after BVN but they suggest that only a small number of central vestibular cells may be inactivated by neurectomy.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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