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Responses of neurons in the central cervical nucleus of the rat to proprioceptive and vestibular inputs.

L. B. Popova, B. Ragnarson, G. N. Orlovsky, G. Grant


Activity of neurons in the central cervical nucleus (CCN) was recorded extracellularly in decerebrate, immobilized rats. Neurons were identified by their antidromic response to electrical stimulation of the contralateral superior cerebellar peduncle. Stimulation of the ipsilateral dorsal neck muscles (m. biventer cervicis and complexus [BCC]; m. splenius [S]) by a single electric pulse evoked a short-latency (approximately 1 ms) excitatory response in the majority of CCN neurons. The response was usually followed by a period of inhibition of the resting discharge (approximately 20 ms). Stimulation of the contralateral BCC or S usually produced only inhibition of the resting discharge (approximately 20 ms). Mechanical stretching of BCC or S resulted in activation (about 100% increased firing rate) of the ipsilateral CCN neurons, lasting for the duration of the stretch. A pronounced dynamic component, i.e. an extra-excitation at the beginning of the stretch and inhibition after termination of the stretch, was also observed. Stroking and pinching of the skin in the neck region affected the tested CCN neurons, while cutaneous stimuli at other sites of the body were inefficient. Stimulation of the vestibular receptors was performed in two ways. (i) Unilateral galvanic stimulation of the labyrinths by constant current pulses through the external acoustic meatus affected all CCN neurons tested. Contralateral stimulation with negative current was found to be most efficient; it produced excitation followed by inhibition. (ii) Natural vestibular stimulation was performed by rotating the animal in the transverse plane (roll, + or - 10 degrees) or the sagittal plane (pitch, + or - 5 degrees). Sinusoidal movements (0.5-1 Hz) or trapezoid movements were applied. Sinusoidal roll tilt evoked responses in all neurons tested, with a peak discharge during contralateral rolling or at the moment of transition from the ipsi- to contralateral position. All tested CCN neurons also responded statically to roll tilt, i.e. their tonic activity increased with up to 65%, of which the majority (80%) responded in the continuously maintained contralateral roll tilt position compared to the ipsilateral. Sinusoidal pitch tilt also affected all tested neurons, although the reaction was smaller than compared to roll. They usually responded by increasing their firing rate when moving towards the nose-down position. A static response (40-60% difference in the firing rate between the extreme pitch positions) was observed in some neurons. No tested neurons showed any clear rhythmic modulation during either spontaneous or induced, real or fictive locomotion.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

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