Long-term deficits in motion detection thresholds and spike count variability after unilateral vestibular lesion

J Neurophysiol. 2014 Aug 15;112(4):870-89. doi: 10.1152/jn.00280.2014. Epub 2014 May 21.


The vestibular system operates in a push-pull fashion using signals from both labyrinths and an intricate bilateral organization. Unilateral vestibular lesions cause well-characterized motor deficits that are partially compensated over time and whose neural correlates have been traced in the mean response modulation of vestibular nuclei cells. Here we compare both response gains and neural detection thresholds of vestibular nuclei and semicircular canal afferent neurons in intact vs. unilateral-lesioned macaques using three-dimensional rotation and translation stimuli. We found increased stimulus-driven spike count variability and detection thresholds in semicircular canal afferents, although mean responses were unchanged, after contralateral labyrinth lesion. Analysis of trial-by-trial spike count correlations of a limited number of simultaneously recorded pairs of canal afferents suggests increased noise correlations after lesion. In addition, we also found persistent, chronic deficits in rotation detection thresholds of vestibular nuclei neurons, which were larger in the ipsilesional than the contralesional brain stem. These deficits, which persisted several months after lesion, were due to lower rotational response gains, whereas spike count variability was similar in intact and lesioned animals. In contrast to persistent deficits in rotation threshold, translation detection thresholds were not different from those in intact animals. These findings suggest that, after compensation, a single labyrinth is sufficient to recover motion sensitivity and normal thresholds for the otolith, but not the semicircular canal, system.

Keywords: interneuronal correlation; threshold; variability; vestibular afferents; vestibular nuclei.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Evoked Potentials, Somatosensory*
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Male
  • Motion Perception*
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology
  • Rotation
  • Semicircular Canals / cytology
  • Semicircular Canals / physiology*
  • Sensory Thresholds
  • Vestibular Nuclei / cytology
  • Vestibular Nuclei / physiology*
  • Vestibule, Labyrinth / cytology
  • Vestibule, Labyrinth / physiology*