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Lambert, François M.; Straka, Hans ORCID: 0000-0003-2874-0441 (2012): The frog vestibular system as a model for lesion-induced plasticity: basic neural principles and implications for posture control. In: Frontiers in Neurology, Vol. 3
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Studies of behavioral consequences after unilateral labyrinthectomy have a long tradition in the quest of determining rules and limitations of the CNS to exert plastic changes that assist the recuperation from the loss of sensory inputs. Frogs were among the first animal models to illustrate general principles of regenerative capacity and reorganizational neural flexibility after a vestibular lesion. The continuous successful use of the latter animals is in part based on the easy access and identifiability of nerve branches to inner ear organs for surgical intervention, the possibility to employ whole brain preparations for in vitro studies and the limited degree of freedom of postural reflexes for quantification of behavioral impairments and subsequent improvements. Major discoveries that increased the knowledge of post-lesional reactive mechanisms in the central nervous system include alterations in vestibular commissural signal processing and activation of cooperative changes in excitatory and inhibitory inputs to disfacilitated neurons. Moreover, the observed increase of synaptic efficacy in propriospinal circuits illustrates the importance of limb proprioceptive inputs for postural recovery. Accumulated evidence suggests that the lesion-induced neural plasticity is not a goal-directed process that aims towards a meaningful restoration of vestibular reflexes but rather attempts a survival of those neurons that have lost their excitatory inputs. Accordingly, the reaction mechanism causes an improvement of some components but also a deterioration of other aspects as seen by spatio-temporally inappropriate vestibulo-motor responses, similar to the consequences of plasticity processes in various sensory systems and species. The generality of the findings indicate that frogs continue to form a highly amenable vertebrate model system for exploring molecular and physiological events during cellular and network reorganization after a loss of vestibular function.