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The role of tonic vestibular input for postural control in rats.

T. G. Deliagina, L. B. Popova, G. Grant


Removal of a vestibular organ deprives the ipsilateral vestibular nuclei of tonic excitatory inflow from vestibular afferents, and thus evokes a central asymmetry, that is imbalance between tonic activity of the left and right vestibular nuclear complexes. In the present study, the effect of the central asymmetry upon a function of different motor systems was investigated in the freely behaving rats subjected to unilateral or bilateral labyrinthectomy (UL or BL). In four sets of experiments the following results have been obtained. 1. Seven UL-evoked symptoms (which reflect impairment of different motor systems) were qualitatively characterized. The short-lasting symptoms were: (1) body twisting, (2) rolling, (3, 4) extension of the fore- and hindlimb contralateral to UL, and (5) circling. These symptoms disappeared in a fixed order during recovery from anesthesia. During of expression of the symptoms was very short (less than 1 hour) with the Halothan anesthesia and much longer (approximately 8 hours) with the chloral hydrate anesthesia. The long-lasting symptoms were (6) spontaneous ocular nystagmus, that persisted for 3 days after UL, and (7) head roll tilt, that persisted for at least several weeks after UL. 2. In BL-animals, stimulation of one of the 8th nerves was performed (by means of an implanted electrode; pulses 0.3 ms, 50 Hz, current up to 400 microA). By increasing gradually the strength of the stimulating current, we could evoke all the UL-symptoms but generally in the order (7-1) which was the reverse as compared to the order of disappearance of the corresponding symptoms during recovery after UL (1-7). These findings suggest that different symptoms need different levels of the central asymmetry for their appearance, and these levels also determine the order of disappearance of the symptoms during recovery from UL. 3. In UL-animals, by stimulating the 8th nerve on UL-side with a properly adjusted current (200-400 microA) we could immediately abolish all the symptoms except (6), which was, however, considerably reduced. This finding suggests that stimulation of the 8th nerve in UL-rats restores the central symmetry, which results in a concerted disappearance of almost all symptoms. In addition to the intermediate effects, stimulation of the 8th nerve in UL-animals resulted in a long-lasting effect, that is a reduction of the head roll tilt which persisted for at least 10 days after stimulation. 4. In BL-animals bilateral stimulation of the 8th nerve resulted in restoration of the muscular tone, and in considerable improvement of the control of the head position.

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