The role of the otoliths in mammals in the angular vestibuloocular reflex (VOR) has been difficult to determine because there is no surgical technique that can reliably ablate them without damaging the semicircular canals. The Otopetrin1 (Otop1) mouse lacks functioning otoliths because of failure to develop otoconia but seems to have otherwise normal peripheral anatomy and neural circuitry. By using these animals we sought to determine the role of the otoliths in angular VOR baseline function and adaptation. In six Otop1 mice and six control littermates we measured baseline ocular countertilt about the three primary axes in head coordinates; baseline horizontal (rotation about an Earth-vertical axis parallel to the dorsal-ventral axis) and vertical (rotation about an Earth-vertical axis parallel to the interaural axis) sinusoidal (0.2-10 Hz, 20-100°/s) VOR gain (= eye/head velocity); and the horizontal and vertical VOR after gain-increase (1.5×) and gain-decrease (0.5×) adaptation training. Countertilt responses were significantly reduced in Otop1 mice. Baseline horizontal and vertical VOR gains were similar between mouse types, and so was horizontal VOR adaptation. For control mice, vertical VOR adaptation was evident when the testing context, left ear down (LED) or right ear down (RED), was the same as the training context (LED or RED). For Otop1 mice, VOR adaptation was evident regardless of context. Our results suggest that the otolith translational signal does not contribute to the baseline angular VOR, probably because the mouse VOR is highly compensatory, and does not alter the magnitude of adaptation. However, we show that the otoliths are important for gravity context-specific angular VOR adaptation. NEW & NOTEWORTHY This is the first study examining the role of the otoliths (defined here as the utricle and saccule) in adaptation of the angular vestibuloocular reflex (VOR) in an animal model in which the otoliths are reliably inactivated and the semicircular canals preserved. We show that they do not contribute to adaptation of the normal angular VOR. However, the otoliths provide the main cue for gravity context-specific VOR adaptation.
- context-specific adaptation
- otoconia-deficient mice
- Otop1 mouse, vestibular adaptation
- vestibuloocular reflex
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