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Altered gravitational experience during early periods of life affects the static vestibulo-ocular reflex of tadpoles of the Southern Clawed Toad, Xenopus laevis Daudin

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The effects of altered gravitational forces (AGF) on the development of the static vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR) were investigated in Xenopus laevis tadpoles exposed to hypergravity (1.4g; 3g) or microgravity conditions (German spacelab mission D-2) for 9–10 days. The effects of light conditions during development were also tested by exposing tadpoles to either complete darkness (DD) or 12∶12 h light-dark conditions (LD). The static VOR was induced by lateral roll. The efficacy of the VOR circuit after termination of AGF conditions was described by the peak-to-peak amplitude of the sinusoidal VOR characteristics (i.e. amplitude). The static VOR was first observed at stage 41 for both LD and DD tadpoles. Its further development was retarded in the DD tadpoles compared with the LD tadpoles up to stage 48. Microgravity as well as hypergravity exposure caused a significant (P<0.05, at least) decrease in the static VOR amplitude during the first week after termination of the AGF period. The decreases were 39.4% in the microgravity group, 16.2% in the 1.4g group and 24.9–42.9% in the 3g group compared with the 1g ground-reared siblings at the same developmental stages. The response deficits usually disappeared but persisted for at least 2 weeks in animals whose development was retarded by hypergravity exposure. It is postulated (i) that gravity exerts an important influence on the normal development of the roll-induced static VOR; (ii) that hypergravity exposure decreases the sensitivity of the gravity-sensitive system so that recordings under 1g conditions cause a weaker static VOR; and (iii) that the vestibulo-spinal pathway possesses a higher degree of plasticity than the vestibulo-ocular pathway.

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Sebastian, C., Eßeling, K. & Horn, E. Altered gravitational experience during early periods of life affects the static vestibulo-ocular reflex of tadpoles of the Southern Clawed Toad, Xenopus laevis Daudin. Exp Brain Res 112, 213–222 (1996).

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Key words

  • Development
  • Hypergravity
  • Microgravity
  • Vestibulo-ocular reflex
  • Xenopus