Eye movements of the murine P/Q calcium channel mutant rocker, and the impact of aging

J Neurophysiol. 2004 May;91(5):2066-78. doi: 10.1152/jn.01068.2003. Epub 2004 Jan 14.


Mutations in the gene encoding the ion pore of the P/Q voltage-activated calcium channel (CACNA1A) are predicted to alter synaptic transmission and dendritic excitability within cerebellar granule and Purkinje cells. Determining the relationships between these alterations, neuronal activity, and behavior may yield insight into the relationship between neuronal intrinsic properties and signal processing within the ocular motor system. Toward this end, we compared ocular motor performance in the CACNA1A mutant rocker and C57BL/6 controls. Average vertical eye position was abnormally elevated in the mutants, a finding that may be analogous to downbeat nystagmus seen in human cerebellar disorders. Fast phases of vestibular nystagmus were slowed by approximately 18% of control values. The angular vestibuloocular reflex (VOR) in darkness and light (visual VOR, or VVOR), assessed at 0.1-1.6 Hz, exhibited subnormal gains at the highest stimulus frequencies and increased phase leads at the lowest stimulus frequencies. Horizontal optokinetic responses to constant velocity drum rotation of +/-2.5-40 degrees/s exhibited minimally reduced gains. Attempts to increase VOR gain by concomitant optokinetic and vestibular stimulation were confounded by the tendency of the mice to habituate to repetitive vestibular stimulation, but attempts to induce coupling of vertical eye movements to horizontal vestibular stimulation (cross-axis adaptation) generated rapid plastic changes in controls and little effect in mutants. With the notable exceptions of the vertical elevation and optokinetic gains, the ocular motor abnormalities were stable over a broad range of animal age, a result compatible with the abnormalities arising as direct consequences of the inborn alteration in calcium channel biophysics.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / physiology
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Algorithms
  • Animals
  • Calcium Channels, P-Type / genetics*
  • Calcium Channels, Q-Type / genetics*
  • Calibration
  • Cerebellar Ataxia / genetics
  • Cerebellar Ataxia / pathology
  • Cerebellar Ataxia / physiopathology
  • Cerebellum / pathology
  • Darkness
  • Electrophysiology
  • Eye Movements / physiology*
  • Kinetics
  • Light
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mutation / physiology*
  • Neurons / pathology
  • Nystagmus, Physiologic / genetics
  • Nystagmus, Physiologic / physiology
  • Ocular Motility Disorders / congenital
  • Ocular Motility Disorders / genetics
  • Ocular Motility Disorders / physiopathology
  • Phenotype
  • Reflex, Vestibulo-Ocular / physiology


  • Calcium Channels, P-Type
  • Calcium Channels, Q-Type