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Plastic changes underlying vestibular compensation in the guinea-pig persist in isolated, in vitro whole brain preparations

Babalian, A.
Gasc, J. P.
Vidal, P. P.
Published in Neuroscience. 1999, vol. 93, no. 2, p. 413-432
Abstract Vestibular compensation for the postural and oculomotor deficits induced by unilateral labyrinthectomy is a model of post-lesional plasticity in the central nervous system. Just after the removal of one labyrinth, the deafferented, ipsilateral vestibular nucleus neurons are almost silent, and the discharge of the contralateral vestibular nucleus neurons is increased. The associated static disorders disappear in a few days, as normal activity is restored in both vestibular nuclei. In this study, we searched for traces of vestibular compensation in isolated whole brains taken from adult guinea-pigs. The electrophysiological responses evoked in control brains were compared to those evoked in brains taken from animals that had previously been labyrinthectomized. Guinea-pigs compensated for an initial labyrinthectomy within three days. In vivo, subsequent deafferentation of vestibular nucleus neurons on the intact side triggered "Bechterew's phenomenon": a new postural and oculomotor syndrome appeared, similar to the one induced by the first lesion, but directed to the newly deafferented side. These disturbances would be caused by the new imbalance between the discharges of neurons in the two vestibular nuclei triggered by the second deafferentation. Experiments were designed to search for a similar imbalance in vitro in brains taken from labyrinthectomized animals, where the intact vestibular nerve is cut during the dissection. Isolated whole brains were obtained from young guinea-pigs at various times (one to seven days) following an initial labyrinthectomy. An imbalance between the resting activities of medial vestibular nucleus neurons on both sides of the brainstem was revealed in brains taken more than three days after the lesion: their discharge was higher on the compensated, initially lesioned side than on the newly deafferented side. In some cases, an oscillatory pattern of discharge, reminiscent of the spontaneous nystagmus associated in vivo with Bechterew's syndrome, appeared in both abducens nerves. These data demonstrate that most of the changes underlying vestibular compensation persist, and can thus be investigated in the isolated whole brain preparation. Brains removed only one day after the lesion displayed normal commissural responses and symmetric spinal inputs to vestibular nucleus neurons. However, an unusually large proportion of the neurons recorded on both sides of the preparation had very irregular spontaneous discharge rates. These data suggest that the first stages of vestibular compensation might be associated with transient changes in the membrane properties of vestibular nucleus neurons. Brains taken from compensated animals displayed a significant, bilateral decrease of the inhibitory commissural responses evoked in the medial vestibular nucleus by single-shock stimulation of the contralateral vestibular nerve. The sensitivity of abducens motoneurons on the initially lesioned, compensated side to synaptic activation from the contralesional vestibular nucleus neurons was also decreased. Both changes may explain the long-term, bilateral decrease of vestibular-related reflexes observed following unilateral labyrinthectomy. Spinal inputs to vestibular nucleus neurons became progressively asymmetric: their efficacy was increased on the lesioned side and decreased on the intact one. This last modification may support a functional substitution of the deficient, vestibular-related synergies involved in gaze and posture stabilization by neck-related reflexes.
Keywords AnimalsBehavior, Animal/physiologyBrain/ physiologyDenervationEar, Inner/physiologyElectrophysiologyEvoked Potentials/physiologyFemaleGuinea PigsMaleMembrane Potentials/physiologyNeuronal Plasticity/ physiologyNystagmus, Physiologic/physiologyPatch-Clamp TechniquesPosture/physiologySpinal Cord/physiologyVestibule, Labyrinth/ physiology
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PMID: 10465424
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