Gravity receptor function in mice with graded otoconial deficiencies.

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Hear Res 2004 May; 191(1-2):34-40.


The purpose of the present study was to examine gravity receptor function in mutant mouse strains with variable deficits in otoconia: lethal milk (lm), pallid (pa), tilted (tlt), mocha (mh), and muted (mu). Control animals were either age-matched heterozygotes or C57BL/6J (abbr. B6) mice. Gravity receptor function was measured using linear vestibular evoked potentials (VsEPs). Cage and swimming behaviors were also documented. Temporal bones were cleared to assess the overall otoconial deficit and to correlate structure and function for lm mice. Results confirmed the absence of VsEPs for mice that lacked otoconia completely. VsEP thresholds and amplitudes varied in mouse strains with variable loss of otoconia. Some heterozygotes also showed elevated VsEP thresholds in comparison to B6 mice. In lm mice, which have absent otoconia in the utricle and a variable loss of otoconia in the saccule, VsEPs were present and average P1/N1 amplitudes were highly correlated with the average loss of saccular otoconia (R = 0.77,p < 0.001). Cage and swimming behavior were not adversely affected in those animals with recordable VsEPs. Most, but not all, mice with absent VsEPs were unable to swim. Some animals were able to swim despite having no measurable gravity receptor response. The latter finding underscores the remarkable adaptive potential exhibited by neurobehavioral systems following profound sensory loss. It also shows that behavior alone may be an unreliable indicator of the extent of gravity receptor deficits.