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Exp Brain Res. 1994;98(3):379-90.

Gain changes of the cat's vestibulo-ocular reflex after flocculus deactivation.

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Department of Ophthalmology, Johns Hopkins University, School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21287-9131.


Motor learning can be demonstrated in the vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR) by changing its gain (eye velocity/head velocity) with goggles and optokinetic (OK) drums. It is known that the flocculus is essential for this plasticity but there is controversy about whether the modifiable synapses mainly responsible are in the flocculus. To investigate this further we utilized the known reciprocal relationship between complex spikes and simple spikes in Purkinje cell discharges. By stimulating climbing fibers from the olive to the flocculus at 7 Hz, the simple spike rate of almost all recorded floccular cells could be driven to zero. This was termed floccular shutdown and it felt to effect a functional, reversible flocculectomy. Sixty single units in the flocculi of four cats were recorded. Stimulation of the climbing fibers at 7 Hz caused the discharge rate to decrease to zero in 95% of these cells. The gain of the horizontal VOR in three cats was driven repeatedly to twice or half its normal value by rotation within a moving OK drum and also by wearing magnifying or fixed-field goggles; this process required 3 days. If, on the 4th day, the cat was exposed to an OK drum rotating in the opposite direction, the gain was driven back to normal in 30 min. If, however, the climbing fibers were stimulated at 7 Hz during these 30 min, the gain did not return--learning was blocked. This verified that loss of floccular activity by this method abolishes VOR gain plasticity. Moreover, when 7 Hz stimulation first began, after 3 days of adaptation, the adapted gain remained at its adapted value, either half or twice normal, even in the face of floccular shutdown. This result appears incompatible with the hypothesis that the modifiable synapses are in the flocculus.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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