Recent studies have shown that ionic direct current (iDC) can modulate the vestibular system in-vivo, with potential benefits over conventional pulsed stimulation. In this study, the effects of iDC stimulation on vestibular nerve fiber firing rate was investigated using loose-patch nerve fiber recordings in the acutely excised mouse crista ampullaris of the semicircular canals. Cathodic and anodic iDC steps instantaneously reduced and increased afferent spike rate, with the polarity of this effect dependent on the position of the stimulating electrode. A sustained constant anodic or cathodic current resulted in an adaptation to the stimulus and a return to spontaneous spike rate. Post-adaptation spike rate responses to iDC steps were similar to pre-adaptation controls. At high intensities spike rate response sensitivities were modified by the presence of an adaptation step. Benefits previously observed in behavioral responses to iDC steps delivered after sustained current may be due to post-adaptation changes in afferent sensitivity. These results contribute to an understanding of peripheral spike rate relationships for iDC vestibular stimulation and validate an ex-vivo model for future investigation of cellular mechanisms. In conjunction with previous in-vivo studies, these data help to characterize iDC stimulation as a potential therapy to restore vestibular function after bilateral vestibulopathy.
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