The influence of temporary blockage of semicircular canals on the loss and recovery of vestibuloocular reflexes

N. H. Barmack

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The efficacy of the technique of semicircular canal plugging in selectively blocking the function of individual semicircular canals was evaluated in rabbits. The horizontal and vertical vestibuloocular reflexes (HVOR, VVOR) and the horizontal optokinetic reflex (HOKR) were measured before the horizontal or anterior semicircular canals (HSCs, ASCs) were plugged bilaterally with small spindles of silver wire. These reflexes were also measured after the plugs were removed. The gain of the HVOR was reduced to less than 0.05 at all frequencies tested after plugs were inserted into the HSCs. The gain of the HOKR was not influenced by the plugging operation. These data were interpreted to mean that the plugs blocked the normal fluid dynamics of the HSCs, but did not alter the spontaneous activity of HSC afferents. The gain of the VVOR was not reduced by plugs of the HSCs. The gain of the VVOR was reduced by plugs of the ASCs. The residual VVOR was attributed to stimulation of the utricular otoliths at lower frequencies and stimulation of the posterior semicircular canals at higher frequencies. The gain of the HVOR was reduced 10-40% by plugs of the ASCs. These data, in conjunction with the presence of a small residual gain of the HVOR following bilateral plugs of the HSCs, suggest that the ASCs contribute to the HVOR. The gains of the HVOR and VVOR recovered to within 88% of the preplug values once the plugs of the HSCs or ASCs were removed. However, the protracted time course of this recovery, 10-15 d, indicated that the plugging operation, although reversible, does cause some temporary damage to the peripheral labyrinth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2816-2826
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number8
StatePublished - Jan 1 1988


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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