The effect of gravity on the horizontal and vertical vestibulo-ocular reflex in the rat

Exp Brain Res. 2000 Jun;132(4):434-44. doi: 10.1007/s002210000357.


Horizontal and vertical eye movements were recorded in alert pigmented rats using chronically implanted scleral search coils or temporary glue-on coils to test the dependence of the vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR) upon rotation axis and body orientation. The contributions of semicircular-canal versus otolith-organ signals to the VOR were investigated by providing canal-only (vertical axis) and canal plus otolith (horizontal axis) stimulation conditions. Rotations that stimulated canals only (upright yaw and nose-up roll) produced an accurate VOR during middle- and high-frequency rotations (0.2-2 Hz). However, at frequencies below 0.2 Hz, the canal-only rotations elicited a phase-advanced VOR. The addition of a changing gravity stimulus, and thus dynamic otolith stimulation, to the canal signal (nose-up yaw, on-side yaw, and upright roll) produced a VOR response with accurate phase down to the lowest frequency tested (0.02 Hz). In order to further test the dependence of the VOR on gravitational signals, we tested vertical VOR with the head in an inverted posture (inverted roll). The VOR in this condition was advanced in phase across all frequencies tested. At low frequencies, the VOR during inverted roll was anticompensatory, characterized by slow-phase eye movement in the same direction as head movement. The substantial differences between canalonly VOR and canal plus otolith VOR suggest an important role of otolith organs in rat VOR. Anticompensatory VOR during inverted roll suggests that part of the otolith contribution arises from static tilt signals that are inverted when the head is inverted.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Eye Movements / physiology*
  • Gravitation*
  • Otolithic Membrane / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Long-Evans
  • Reflex, Vestibulo-Ocular / physiology*