Activity of neurons in the beta nucleus of the inferior olive of the rabbit evoked by natural vestibular stimulation

N. H. Barmack, M. Fagerson, B. J. Fredette, E. Mugnaini, H. Shojaku

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54 Scopus citations


The inferior olive (IO) appears to be organized functionally in discrete subnuclei that receive transmitter-specific inputs. In particular, the IO receives a GABAergic input that is most densely concentrated in the β -nucleus. In this experiment, we examined the functional specificity of neurons in the β -nucleus of the IO of rabbits by recording their activity during natural vestibular and optokinetic stimulation. Rabbits were anesthetized and positioned in a triaxial servo- controlled rate table with the head fixed at the center of rotation. Contour-rich visual stimuli were rear-projected onto a 70 deg tangent screen and moved at constant velocities. Recording sites in the β -nucleus were verified by subsequent histological analysis of marking microlesions. Neurons in the β -nucleus responded to roll vestibular stimulation about the longitudinal axis. These neurons were excited when the rabbit was rolled onto the side which was contralateral to the recording site, and inhibited when the rabbit was rolled ipsilaterally. Thirty-eight of the 75 β -nucleus neurons that were responsive to roll vestibular stimulation also responded to static tilt, indicating an otolithic as well as a vertical semicircular canal origin of the vestibular input. The modulated activity of none of the neurons could be attributed to stimulation of the horizontal semicircular canals. All the recorded neurons were found in a region of the β -nucleus that was retrogradely labeled following HRP injections into the cerebellar nodulus. Using a "null point" technique, we found that there was a differential projection of information from the anterior and posterior semicircular canals onto to the β -nucleus. Stimulation of the ipsilateral anterior-contralateral posterior semicircular canals modulates activity of the neurons in the caudal 500 μm of the β -nucleus. Stimulation of the ipsilateral posterior-contralateral anterior semicircular canals modulates activity of neurons located more rostrally. β -nucleus neurons and the olivocerebellar circuits in which they participate may constitute an important pathway for the control and adaptive modification of postural reflexes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)203-215
Number of pages13
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1993
Externally publishedYes


  • Cerebellum
  • HRP
  • Rabbit
  • Single unit recording
  • Vestibular stimulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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