1. Because the nucleus reticularis gigantocellularis (NRGc) receives a substantial descending projection from the caudal vestibular nuclei, we used extracellular single-unit recording combined with natural vestibular stimulation to examine the possible peripheral origins of the vestibularly modulated activity of caudal NRGc neurons located within 500 μm of the midline. Chloralose-urethan anesthetized rabbits were stimulated with an exponential 'step' and/or static head-tilt stimulus, as well as sinusoidal rotation about the longitudinal or interaural axes providing various combinations of roll or pitch, respectively. Recording sites were reconstructed from electrolytic lesions confirmed histologically. 2. More than 85% of the 151 neurons, in the medial aspect of the caudal NRGc, responded to vertical vestibular stimulation. Ninety-six percent of these responded to rotation onto the contralateral side (β responses). Only a few also responded to horizontal stimulation. Seventy-eight percent of the neurons that responded to vestibular stimulation responded during static roll-tilt. One-half of these neurons also responded transiently to the change in head position during exponential 'step' stimulation, suggesting input mediated by otolith and semicircular canal receptors or tonic-phasic otolith neurons. 3. Seventy-five percent of the responsive neurons had a 'null plane.' The planes of stimulation resulting in maximal responses, for cells that responded to static stimulation, were distributed throughout 150° in both roll and pitch quadrants. Five of these cells responded only transiently during exponential 'step' stimulation and responded maximally when stimulated in the plane of one of the vertical semicircular canals. 4. The phase of the response of the 25% of medial NRGc neurons that lacked 'null planes' gradually shifted ~180° during sinusoidal vestibular stimulation as the plane of stimulation was shifted about the vertical axis. These neurons likely received convergent input with differing spatial and temporal properties. 5. The activity of neurons in the medial aspect of the caudal NRGc of rabbits was modulated by both otolithic macular and vertical semicircular canal receptor stimulation. This vestibular information may be important for controlling the intensity of the muscle activity in muscles such as neck muscles where the load on the muscle is affected by the position of the head with respect to gravity. Some of these neurons may also shift muscle function from an agonist to an antagonist as the direction of head tilt changes.
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