1. The adaptive plasticity of the vestibuloocular reflex (VOR) following a selective lesion of the peripheral vestibular organs was investigated in rhesus monkeys whose lateral semicircular canals were inactivated by plugging of the canal lumen in both ears. Gain and phase of horizontal, vertical, and torsional slow phase eye velocity were determined from three-dimensional eye movement recordings obtained acutely after the plugging operation, as well as in regular intervals up to 10 mo later. 2. Acutely after plugging, horizontal VOR was minimal during yaw rotation with gains of <0.1 at all frequencies. Horizontal VOR gain gradually increased over time, reaching gains of 0.4-0.5 for yaw oscillations at 1.1 Hz ~5 mo after lateral canal inactivation. This response recovery was strongly frequency dependent: horizontal VOR gains were largest at the highest frequency tested and progressively decreased for lower frequencies. Below ~0.1 Hz, no consistent horizontal VOR could be elicited even 10 mo after plugging. 3. The frequency-dependent changes in gain paralleled changes in horizontal VOR phase. Below ~0.1-0.05 Hz large phase leads were present, similarly as in semicircular canal primary afferents. Smaller phase leads were also present at higher frequencies, particularly at 1.1 Hz (the highest frequency tested). 4. Consistent with the afferent-like dynamics of the adapted horizontal VOR, per- and postrotatory horizontal responses to constant-velocity yaw rotations were short lasting. Time constants of the slow-phase eye velocity envelope of the horizontal postrotatory nystagmus were ~2 s. Nonetheless, a consistent horizontal optokinetic afternystagmus was evoked in plugged animals. 5. A torsional component that was absent in intact animals was consistently present during yaw rotation acutely after lateral canal inactivation and remained approximately constant thereafter. The frequency response characteristics of this torsional component resembled those of the adapted horizontal slow- phase responses: gain decreased and large phase leads were introduced at frequencies below ~0.05-0.1 Hz. Torsional responses elicited by roll oscillations in supine position, on the other hand, were indistinguishable in their dynamics from intact animals. No consistent vertical nystagmus was elicited during yaw rotation. 6. Our results show that there is a slow, frequency-specific recovery of horizontal VOR after selective inactivation of the lateral semicircular canals. Both the spatial organization and the dynamic properties of the adapted VOR responses are distinctly different from responses in intact animals, suggesting complex changes in the underlying vestibuloocular circuitry.
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