Neurons in the medial vestibular nucleus (MVN) vary in their projection patterns, responses to head movement, and intrinsic firing properties. To establish whether neurons that participate in the vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR) have distinct intrinsic physiological properties, oculomotor nucleus (OMN)-projecting neurons were identified in mouse brainstem slices by fluorescent retrograde labeling from the oculomotor complex and targeted for patch-clamp recordings. Such neurons were located in the magnocellular portion of the MVN contralateral to tracer injection, were mostly multipolar, and had soma diameters of around 20 μm. They fired spontaneous action potentials at rates higher than those of other MVN neurons and their spikes were of unusually short duration. OMN-projecting neurons responded to 1-s intracellular current injection with exceptionally high firing rates of >500 spikes/s. Their current-firing relationship was highly linear, with weak firing response adaptation during steady depolarization and little postinhibitory rebound firing after membrane hyperpolarization. Their firing responses were approximately in phase with sinusoidal current injection. The response dynamics of OMN-projecting neurons could be simulated with a simple integrate-and-fire model modified with the addition of small adaptation and rebound conductances. These findings indicate that the membrane properties of OMN-projecting neurons allow them to respond to head movements reliably and with high sensitivity but without substantially altering input dynamics.
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