1. During constant velocity off-vertical axis rotations (OVAR) in the dark a compensatory ocular nystagmus is present throughout rotation despite the lack of a maintained signal from the semicircular canals. Lesion experiments and canal plugging have attributed the steady-state ocular nystagmus during OVAR to inputs from the otolith organs and have demonstrated that it depends on an intact velocity storage mechanism. 2. To test whether irregularly discharging otolith afferents play a crucial role in the generation of the steady-state eye nystagmus during OVAR, we have used anodal (inhibitory) currents bilaterally to selectively and reversibly block irregular vestibular afferent discharge. During delivery of DC anodal currents (100 μA) bilaterally to both ears, the slow phase eye velocity of the steady-state nystagmus during OVAR was reduced or completely abolished. The disruption of the steady-state nystagmus was transient and lasted only during the period of galvanic stimulation. 3. To distinguish a possible effect of ablation of the background discharge rates of irregular vestibular afferents on the velocity storage mechanism from specific contributions of the dynamic responses from irregular otolith afferents to the circuit responsible for the generation of the steady-state nystagmus, bilateral DC anodal galvanic stimulation was applied during optokinetic nystagmus (OKN) and optokinetic afternystagmus (OKAN). No change in OKN and OKAN was observed. 4. We conclude that irregular otolith afferents are essential for the generation of the steady-state eye nystagmus during OVAR and for the otolith system to perform as an angular velocity detector. The mechanism by which otolith-sensitive cells acquire angular velocity sensitivity during head rotations about off-vertical axes is proposed to involve spatio-temporal convergence between regular and irregular otolith afferents, which results in neurons with two-dimensional spatial and temporal sensitivity to linear acceleration.
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