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Depression of the vestibulospinal reflex adaptation by intravermal microinjection of GABA-A and GABA-B agonists in the cat.

D. Manzoni, P. Andre, P. d' Ascanio, O. Pompeiano


In decerebrate cats the gain of the vestibulospinal reflex (VSR), elicited by sinusoidal roll tilt of the animal at 0.15 Hz, ± 10 degrees, was tested every 10-15 min during and after a sustained (3 h) period of roll tilt of the head at the parameters indicated above, associated with synchronous roll tilt of the body at 0.15 Hz, ± 12.5 degrees; this stimulus led to 2.5 degrees of neck rotation, which was thus out of phase with respect to head rotation. In this condition the gain of the VSR progressively increased during the first h of neck-vestibular stimulation, to reach a plateau level at the end of the third h of stimulation. This adaptive process was followed for at least 1 h after stimulation. Microinjection into the zone B of the cerebellar anterior vermis of the GABA-A agonist muscimol (0.25 microliter at 8 micrograms/microliter saline) producing only a slight or negligible depression of the VSR gain in non-adaptive conditions, prevented the occurrence of the adapted increase in gain of the VSR following a 3-h period of sustained head and neck rotation. In addition, intravermal injection of the GABA-A or the GABA-B agonist muscimol or baclofen, respectively, at the same dose indicated above supressed the adapted increase in gain occurring after a 3-h period of continuous neck-vestibular stimulation. The effective sites were located into the zone B of the cerebellar anterior vermis, from which the direct corticocerebellar projection to the lateral vestibular nucleus originates. In conclusion, the results seem to indicate that the adaptive increase in gain of the VSR which occurs in decerebrate cats depend upon plastic changes which affect the Purkinje cells of the cerebellar anterior vermis. These changes were in fact suppressed by GABAergic inhibition of these neurons. The demonstration that the effects of the GABA agonists occurred suddenly makes unlikely the hypothesis that the cerebellar anterior vermis represents either a relay for adaptive changes occurring before it (for instance in the inferior olive) or else the generator of error signals that elicit plasticity in target structures (as in the vestibular nuclei).

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