As a result of the availability of genetic mutant strains and development of noninvasive eye movements recording techniques, the mouse stands as a very interesting model for bridging the gap among behavioral responses, neuronal response dynamics studied in vivo, and cellular mechanisms investigated in vitro. Here we characterized the responses of individual neurons in the mouse vestibular nuclei during vestibular (horizontal whole body rotations) and full field visual stimulation. The majority of neurons (∼2/3) were sensitive to vestibular stimulation but not to eye movements. During the vestibular-ocular reflex (VOR), these neurons discharged in a manner comparable to the "vestibular only" (VO) neurons that have been previously described in primates. The remaining neurons [eye-movement-sensitive (ES) neurons] encoded both head-velocity and eye-position information during the VOR. When vestibular and visual stimulation were applied so that there was sensory conflict, the behavioral gain of the VOR was reduced. In turn, the modulation of sensitivity of VO neurons remained unaffected, whereas that of ES neurons was reduced. ES neurons were also modulated in response to full field visual stimulation that evoked the optokinetic reflex (OKR). Mouse VO neurons, however, unlike their primate counterpart, were not modulated during OKR. Taken together, our results show that the integration of visual and vestibular information in the mouse vestibular nucleus is limited to a subpopulation of neurons which likely supports gaze stabilization for both VOR and OKR.
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