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Gensberger, Kathrin D.; Kaufmann, Anna-Kristin; Dietrich, Haike; Branoner, Francisco; Banchi, Roberto; Chagnaud, Boris P. and Straka, Hans ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-2874-0441 (2016): Galvanic Vestibular Stimulation: Cellular Substrates and Response Patterns of Neurons in the Vestibulo-Ocular Network. In: Journal of Neuroscience, Vol. 36, No. 35: pp. 9097-9110

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Galvanic vestibular stimulation (GVS) uses modulated currents to evoke neuronal activity in vestibular endorgans in the absence of head motion. GVS is typically used for a characterization of vestibular pathologies;for studies on the vestibular influence of gaze, posture, and locomotion;and for deciphering the sensory-motor transformation underlying these behaviors. At variance with the widespread use of this method, basic aspects such as the activated cellular substrate at the sensory periphery or the comparability to motion-induced neuronal activity patterns are still disputed. Using semi-intact preparations of Xenopus laevis tadpoles, we determined the cellular substrate and the spatiotemporal specificity of GVS-evoked responses and compared sinusoidal GVS-induced activity patterns with motion-induced responses in all neuronal elements along the vestibulo-ocular pathway. As main result, we found that, despite the pharmacological block of glutamatergic hair cell transmission by combined bath-application of NMDA (7-chloro-kynurenic acid) and AMPA (CNQX) receptor blockers, GVS-induced afferent spike activity persisted. However, the amplitude modulation was reduced by similar to 30%, suggesting that both hair cells and vestibular afferent fibers are normally recruited by GVS. Systematic alterations of electrode placement with respect to bilateral semicircular canal pairs or alterations of the bipolar stimulus phase timing yielded unique activity patterns in extraocular motor nerves, compatible with a spatially and temporally specific activation of vestibulo-ocular reflexes in distinct planes. Despite the different GVS electrode placement in semi-intact X. laevis preparations and humans and the more global activation of vestibular endorgans by the latter approach, this method is suitable to imitate head/body motion in both circumstances.

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