Scientific article

Central vestibular networks in the guinea-pig: functional characterization in the isolated whole brain in vitro

Published inNeuroscience, vol. 81, no. 2, p. 405-426
Publication date1997

The isolated, in vitro whole brain of guinea-pig was used to assess some of the main physiological and pharmacological properties of the vestibulo-ocular pathways in this species. Extracellular and intracellular recordings were obtained from the vestibular, abducens and oculomotor nuclei, as well as from the abducens and oculomotor nerves, while inputs from the vestibular afferents, the visual pathways and the spinal cord were activated. The three main types of medial vestibular nucleus neurons (A, B and B+LTS), previously described on slices, were also identified in the isolated brain. They had similar membrane properties in both preparations. Eighty-five per cent of cells recorded in the vestibular nucleus responded with monosynaptic, excitatory postsynaptic potentials (latency 1.05-1.9 ms) to stimulation of the ipsilateral vestibular nerve, and were thus identified as second-order vestibular neurons. In addition, stimulation of the contralateral vestibular afferents revealed in most cases a disynaptic or trisynaptic, commissural inhibition. Second-order vestibular neurons displayed in the isolated brain a high degree of variability of their spontaneous activity, as in alert guinea-pigs. Type A neurons always exhibited a regular firing, while type B and B+LTS cells could have very irregular patterns of spontaneous discharge. Thus, type A and type B neurons might correspond, respectively, to the tonic and phasic vestibular neurons described in vivo. The regularity of spontaneous discharge was positively correlated with the amplitude of spike after hyperpolarization, and there was a trend for irregular neurons to be excited from ipsilateral vestibular afferents at shorter latencies than regular units. Synaptic activation could trigger subthreshold plateau potentials and low-threshold spikes in some of the second-order vestibular neurons. As a second step, the pharmacology of the synaptic transmission between primary vestibular afferents and second-order neurons was assessed using specific antagonists of the glutamatergic receptors. Both the synaptic field potentials and excitatory postsynaptic potentials elicited in the medial vestibular nucleus by single shock stimulation of the ipsilateral vestibular nerve were largely or, sometimes, totally blocked by 6-cyano-7-nitroquinoxaline-2,3-dione, indicating a dominating role of alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid receptor-mediated glutamatergic transmission. The remaining component of the responses was completely or partially suppressed by DL-2-amino-5-phosphonovaleric acid in 35% of the cases, suggesting a concomitant, moderate involvement of N-methyl-D-asparate receptors. In addition, a synaptic response resistant to both antagonists, but sensitive to a zero Ca2+/high Mg(2+)-containing solution, was often observed. Finally, recordings from abducens and oculomotor complexes confirmed the existence in the guinea-pig of strong bilateral, disynaptic excitatory and inhibitory inputs from vestibular afferents to motoneurons of extraocular muscles, which contribute to generation of the vestibulo-ocular reflex. The functional integrity of vestibular-related pathways in the isolated brain was additionally checked by stimulation of the spinal cord and optic tract. Stimulation of the spinal cord evoked, in addition to antidromic responses in the vestibular nucleus, short-latency synaptic responses in both the vestibular nucleus and abducens motoneurons, suggesting possible recruitment of spinal afferents. Activation of visual pathways at the level of the optic chiasm often induced long latency responses in the various structures under study. These results demonstrate that the in vitro isolated brain can be readily used for detailed, functional studies of the neuronal networks underlying gaze and posture control.

  • Animals
  • Brain/ physiology
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Female
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Male
  • Membrane Potentials/physiology
  • Neural Pathways/ physiology
  • Vestibular Nuclei/ physiology
Citation (ISO format)
BABALIAN, A. et al. Central vestibular networks in the guinea-pig: functional characterization in the isolated whole brain in vitro. In: Neuroscience, 1997, vol. 81, n° 2, p. 405–426.
Main files (1)
ISSN of the journal0306-4522

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