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J Neurophysiol. 1989 Nov;62(5):1090-101.

Responses of pigeon horizontal semicircular canal afferent fibers. I. Step, trapezoid, and low-frequency sinusoid mechanical and rotational stimulation.

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Department of Otolaryngology, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston 77550.


1. The horizontal semicircular canals of anesthetized (barbiturate/ketamine) pigeons were stimulated by rotational and by mechanical stimulation. 2. The mechanical stimulation consisted of making a small (less than 1 mm) fistula in the lateral part of the bony horizontal semicircular canal and, after inserting a probe coupled to a piezoelectric micropusher through the fistula, providing controlled indentation of the exposed membranous horizontal semicircular duct. 3. Extracellular action potentials from single horizontal semicircular canal primary afferent (HCA) fibers were recorded during sinusoidal rotational and during step, ramp, and sinusoidal mechanical stimulation. 4. The mean spontaneous discharge rate of 160 horizontal canal afferents was 86 +/- 4 (SE) spikes/s. This rate was not significantly different from that reported previously for pigeon HCA fibers recorded with the horizontal canal intact (i.e., no fistula introduced). 5. Sinusoidal mechanical indentation of the horizontal semicircular duct produced clearly entrained action potentials on 36 HCA fibers for a range of peak displacements from +/- 0.5 to +/- 30 microns. Action potentials were never modulated on afferents (n greater than 100) identified as innervating the anterior and posterior semicircular canals or the otolith organs during mechanical stimulation of the horizontal semicircular canal, even for displacements as large as 30 microns. 6. Intensity functions relating peak firing frequency (spikes per second) and peak probe displacement (micrometers) for 1.0-Hz sinusoidal mechanical stimulation were linear over the range 1.0-5.0 microns. The most sensitive units (6/36, 17%) showed response saturation as the stimulus magnitude was extended to 7 microns and beyond. 7. In 15 of 36 units, both mechanical and rotational sinusoidal stimulation (1.0 Hz) were applied to the same unit. The duct indentation magnitudes were 1.0, 2.5, 5.0, and 7.0 microns and the rotational velocities were 5, 10, and 20 deg/s. The constant of proportionality found to equate the peak response produced by rotational to that elicited by mechanical stimulation was 7.0 deg.sec-1/1.0 microns. 8. Bode plots and best-fit transfer functions of the frequency response (0.05-10.0 Hz) of 14 HCAs exposed to both mechanical and rotational stimulation were nearly identical. 9. Parameters for best-fit transfer functions, responses to step, and trapezoidal duct displacements were in excellent agreement with previous rotational studies carried out using the pigeon. 10. Although the mechanisms by which focal identation of the horizontal membranous duct produce responses have not yet been determined, primary afferent responses using this method of stimulation are directly comparable with rotatory stimulation.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

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