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J Vestib Res. 2009;19(5-6):183-9. doi: 10.3233/VES-2009-0337.

Integration of nonlabyrinthine inputs by the vestibular system: role in compensation following bilateral damage to the inner ear.

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Department of Otolaryngology, Eye and Ear Institute, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA.


Inputs from the skin and muscles of the limbs and trunk as well as the viscera are relayed to the medial, inferior, and lateral vestibular nuclei. Vestibular nucleus neurons very quickly regain spontaneous activity following a bilateral vestibular neurectomy, presumably due to the presence of such nonlabyrinthine inputs. The firing of a small fraction of vestibular nucleus neurons in animals lacking labyrinthine inputs can be modulated by whole-body tilts; these responses are eliminated by a spinal transection, showing that they are predominantly elicited by inputs from the trunk and limbs. The ability to adjust blood distribution in the body and maintain stable blood pressure during movement is diminished following a bilateral vestibular neurectomy, but compensation occurs within a week. However, bilateral lesions of the caudal portions of the vestibular nuclei produce severe and long-lasting cardiovascular disturbances during postural alterations, suggesting that the presence of nonlabyrinthine signals to the vestibular nuclei is essential for compensation of posturally-related autonomic responses to occur. Despite these observations, the functional significance of nonlabyrinthine inputs to the central vestibular system remains unclear, either in modulating the processing of vestibular inputs or compensating for their loss.

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