Saccular and utricular inputs to sternocleidomastoid motoneurons of decerebrate cats

Exp Brain Res. 1999 Jun;126(3):410-6. doi: 10.1007/s002210050747.


Connections from the otolithic organs to sternocleidomastoid (SCM) motoneurons were studied in 20 decerebrate cats. The electrical stimulation was selective for the saccular or the utricular nerves. Postsynaptic potentials were recorded from antidromically identified SCM motoneurons; these muscles participate mainly in neck rotation and flexion. Partial transections of the brainstem at the level of the obex were performed to identify the possible pathway from the otolithic organs to the SCM motoneurons. Saccular or utricular nerve stimulation mainly evoked inhibitory postsynaptic potentials (IPSPs) in the ipsilateral SCM motoneurons. Some of the sacculus-induced IPSPs were preceded by small-amplitude excitatory PSPs (EPSPs). The latencies of the PSPs ranged from 1.8 to 3.1 ms after saccular nerve stimulation and from 1.7 to 2.8 ms after utricular nerve stimulation, indicating that most of the ipsilateral connections were disynaptic. In the contralateral SCM motoneurons, saccular nerve stimulation had no or faint effects, whereas utricular nerve stimulation evoked EPSPs in about two-thirds of neurons, and no visible PSPs in about one-third of neurons. The latencies of the EPSPs ranged from 1.5 to 2.0 ms, indicating the disynaptic connection. Thus, the results suggest a difference between the two otolithic innervating patterns of SCM motoneurons. After transection of the medial vestibulospinal tract (MVST), saccular nerve stimulation did not evoke IPSPs at all in ipsilateral SCM motoneurons, but some (11/40) neurons showed small-amplitude EPSPs. Most (24/33) of the utricular-activated IPSPs disappeared after transection, whereas the other 9 neurons still indicated IPSPs. In the contralateral SCM motoneurons, no utricular-activated EPSPs were recorded after transection. These MVST transection results suggest that most of the otolith-SCM pathways are located in the MVST at the obex level. However, the results also suggest the possibility that other otolith-SCM pathways exist at the obex level.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Afferent Pathways / physiology
  • Animals
  • Cats
  • Decerebrate State / physiopathology*
  • Denervation
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Motor Neurons / physiology*
  • Neck Muscles / innervation*
  • Nervous System Physiological Phenomena
  • Otolithic Membrane / innervation
  • Saccule and Utricle / innervation
  • Saccule and Utricle / physiopathology*
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology