The horizontal vestibuloocular reflex (VOR) of Purkinje cell degeneration (pcd/pcd) mutant mice, which lack a functional cerebellar cortex, was compared in darkness to that of wild-type animals during constant velocity yaw rotations about an earth-horizontal axis and during sinusoidal yaw rotations about an earth-vertical axis. Both wild-type and pcd/pcd mice showed a compensatory average VOR eye velocity, or bias, during constant velocity horizontal axis rotations, evidence of central neural processing of otolith afferent signals to create a signal proportional to head angular velocity. Eye velocity bias was greater in pcd/pcd mice than in wild-type mice at a low rotational velocity (32°/s), but less at higher velocities (128 and 200°/s). Lesion of the medial nodulus severely attenuated eye velocity bias in two wild-type mice, without attenuating VOR during sinusoidal vertical axis yaw rotations at 0.2 Hz. These results show that while head velocity estimation in mice, as in primates, depends on the cerebellum, pcd/pcd mutant mice develop velocity estimation without a functional cerebellar cortex. We conclude that neural circuits that exclude cerebellar cortex are capable of the signal processing necessary for head angular velocity estimation, but that these circuits are insufficient for normal estimation at high velocities.
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