Specific patterns of neuronal connexions involved in the control of the rabbit's vestibulo-ocular reflexes by the cerebellar flocculus

J Physiol. 1977 Mar;265(3):833-54. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.1977.sp011747.


1. In anaesthetized albino rabbits, the occurrence of Purkinje cell inhibition on canal-ocular reflexes was surveyed with a reflex testing method. 2. Test reflexes were elicited by electrical stimulation of the semicircular canals. The results were appaised by recording potentials and tension from extraocular muscles. Twelve reflexes were defined in terms of the receptor canal and the effector muscle. 3. Conditioning electrical stimuli were applied to the flocculus, the inferior olive, and optic pathways at the retinae, optic chiasm, pretectal area and upper medulla. 4. The conditioning stimulation at the ipsilateral flocculus induced depression in six of the twelve canal-ocular reflexes; four of the six arose from the anterior canal and the remaining two from the horizontal canal. 5. The effect of stimulation of the contralateral inferior olive was similar to that of the ipsilateral flocculus, though less clear in two of the four reflexes from the anterior canal because of a contaminating effect. 6. The two reflexes from the horizontal canal were depressed by stimulation of the ipsilateral optic pathway which reached the ipsilateral flocculus via the contralateral pretectal area and inferior olive. 7. The four reflexes from the anterior canal were affected by stimulation of optic pathways in a different manner from each other. One was depressed from the contralateral retina via the ipsilateral pretectal area, while another was depressed from the ipsilateral retina via the contralateral pretectal area, though only occasionally. The third reflex was depressed from the ipsilateral pretectal area but not from the retina. The fourth was affected from neither the retina nor the pretectal area. 8. On the basis of latency measurements, it was concluded that the depression of canal-ocular reflexes was due to inhibition of relay neurones of the testing reflexes by flocculus Purkinje cells which were activated either directly, or indirectly through olivocerebellar climbing fibre afferents. 9. The above conclusion was supported by the observation that the depression induced by stimulation of the inferior olive and optic pathways was abolished by acute destruction of the ipsilateral flocculus. 10. The possible functional significance of the specific patterns of connexions from flocculus Purkinje cells to canal-ocular reflex pathways is discussed, and specialization among flocculus Purkinje cells in relationship with vestibulo-ocular reflexes is postulated.

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Animals
  • Cerebellum / physiology*
  • Muscle Contraction
  • Neural Inhibition
  • Neural Pathways
  • Oculomotor Muscles / physiology*
  • Optic Chiasm / physiology
  • Rabbits
  • Reflex*
  • Retina / physiology
  • Superior Colliculi / physiology
  • Vestibule, Labyrinth / physiology*