Prolonged vestibular stimulation induces homeostatic plasticity of the vestibulo-ocular reflex in larvalXenopus laevis

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Abstract

Vestibulo-ocular reflexes (VOR) stabilise retinal images during head/body motion in vertebrates by generating spatio-temporally precise extraocular motor commands for corrective eye movements. While VOR performance is generally robust with a relatively stable gain, cerebellar circuits are capable of adapting the underlying sensory-motor transformation. Here, we studied cerebellum-dependent VOR plasticity by recording head motion-induced lateral rectus and superior oblique extraocular motor discharge in semi-intact preparations ofXenopus laevistadpoles. In the absence of visual feedback, prolonged sinusoidal rotation caused either an increase or decrease of the VOR gain depending on the motion stimulus amplitude. The observed changes in extraocular motor discharge gradually saturated after 20 min of constant rotation and returned to baseline in the absence of motion stimulation. Furthermore, plastic changes in lateral rectus and superior oblique motor commands were plane-specific for horizontal and vertical rotations, respectively, suggesting that alterations are restricted to principal VOR connections. Comparison of multi- and single-unit activity indicated that plasticity occurs in all recorded units of a given extraocular motor nucleus. Ablation of the cerebellum abolished motoneuronal gain changes and prevented the induction of plasticity, thus demonstrating that both acquisition and retention of this type of plasticity require an intact cerebellar circuitry. In conclusion, the plane-specific and stimulus intensity-dependent modification of the VOR gain through the feed-forward cerebellar circuitry represents a homeostatic plasticity that likely maintains an optimal working range for the underlying sensory-motor transformation.

In larval Xenopus, prolonged sinusoidal head rotation induces a bidirectional homeostatic plasticity of the vestibulo-ocular reflex gain that is plane-specific for horizontal and vertical rotations, respectively, and depends on the duration and magnitude of motion stimulation. Ablation of the cerebellum abolishes induced changes in the gain of extraocular motor discharge modulation and prevents further homeostatic plasticity.

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