Date: 13 May 2008

Rotational Responses of Vestibular–Nerve Afferents Innervating the Semicircular Canals in the C57BL/6 Mouse

Abstract

Extracellular recordings were made from vestibular–nerve afferents innervating the semicircular canals in anesthetized C57BL/6 mice ranging in age from 4–24 weeks. A normalized coefficient of variation was used to divide afferents into regular (CV* < 0.1) and irregular (CV* > 0.1) groups. There were three overall conclusions from this study. First, mouse afferents resemble those of other mammals in properties such as resting discharge rate and dependence of response dynamics on discharge regularity. Second, there are differences in mouse afferents relative to other mammals that are likely related to the smaller size of the semicircular canals. The rotational sensitivity of mouse afferents is approximately threefold lower than that reported for afferents in other mammals. One consequence of the lower sensitivity is that mouse afferents have a larger linear range for encoding head velocity. The long time constant of afferent discharge, which is a measure of low-frequency response dynamics, is shorter in mouse afferents than in other species. Third, juvenile mice (age 4–7 weeks) appear to lack a class of low-sensitivity, highly irregular afferents that are present in adult animals (age 10–24 weeks). By analogy to studies in the chinchilla, these irregular afferents with low sensitivities for lower rotational frequencies correspond to calyx-only afferents. These findings suggest that, although the calyx ending on to type I hair cells is morphologically complete in mice by the age of about 1 month, the physiological response properties in these juvenile animals are not equivalent to those in adults.