Date: 10 Jun 2009

Dynamic Displacement of Normal and Detached Semicircular Canal Cupula

Abstract

The dynamic displacement of the semicircular canal cupula and modulation of afferent nerve discharge were measured simultaneously in response to physiological stimuli in vivo. The adaptation time constant(s) of normal cupulae in response to step stimuli averaged 36 s, corresponding to a mechanical lower corner frequency for sinusoidal stimuli of 0.0044 Hz. For stimuli equivalent to 40–200 deg/s of angular head velocity, the displacement gain of the central region of the cupula averaged 53 nm per deg/s. Afferents adapted more rapidly than the cupula, demonstrating the presence of a relaxation process that contributes significantly to the neural representation of angular head motions by the discharge patterns of canal afferent neurons. We also investigated changes in time constants of the cupula and afferents following detachment of the cupula at its apex—mechanical detachment that occurs in response to excessive transcupular endolymph pressure. Detached cupulae exhibited sharply reduced adaptation time constants (300 ms–3 s, n = 3) and can be explained by endolymph flowing rapidly over the apex of the cupula. Partially detached cupulae reattached and normal afferent discharge patterns were recovered 5–7 h following detachment. This regeneration process may have relevance to the recovery of semicircular canal function following head trauma.