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Neuroscience. 2016 Oct 29;335:122-33. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2016.08.035. Epub 2016 Aug 28.

Effects of bicuculline application on the somatosensory responses of secondary vestibular neurons.

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Department of Biomedical and Biotechnological Sciences - Section of Physiology, University of Catania, I-95125 Catania, Italy.
Department of Physics, University of Pisa, I-56127 Pisa, Italy.
Department of Translational Research and New Technologies in Medicine and Surgery, University of Pisa, I-56127 Pisa, Italy.
Department of Drug Sciences, University of Catania, I-95125 Catania, Italy. Electronic address:


Limb somatosensory signals modify the discharge of vestibular neurons and elicit postural reflexes, which stabilize the body position. The aim of this study was to investigate the contribution of the γ-amino-butyric-acid (GABA) to the responsiveness of vestibular neurons to somatosensory inputs. The activity of 128 vestibular units was recorded in anesthetized rats in resting conditions and during sinusoidal foreleg rotation around the elbow or shoulder joints (0.026-0.625Hz, 45° peak amplitude). None of the recorded units was influenced by elbow rotation, while 40% of them responded to shoulder rotation. The selective GABAA antagonist receptor, bicuculline methiodine (BIC), was applied by microiontophoresis on single vestibular neurons and the changes in their activity at rest and during somatosensory stimulation was studied. In about half of cells the resting activity increased after the BIC application: 75% of these neurons showed also an increased response to somatosensory inputs whereas 17% exhibited a decrease. Changes in responsiveness in both directions were detected also in the units whose resting activity was not influenced by BIC. These data suggest that the responses of vestibular neurons to somatosensory inputs are modulated by GABA through a tonic release, which modifies the membrane response to the synaptic current. It is also possible that a phasic release of GABA occurs during foreleg rotation, shaping the stimulus-elicited current passing through the membrane. If this is the case, the changes in the relative position of body segments would modify the GABA release inducing changes in the vestibular reflexes and in learning processes that modify their spatio-temporal development.


GABA; GABA antagonist; activity modulation; neurotransmission; somatosensory input; vestibular nuclei

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