Mechanical indentation of the vestibular labyrinth and its relationship to head rotation in the toadfish, Opsanus tau

R. D. Rabbitt, R. Boyle, S. M. Highstein


1. In the present study we examine the response of the semicircular canal of the toadfish (Opsanus tau) to head rotation and to mechanical indentation of the membranous labyrinth. The relationship between the two stimuli is described by a new elastohydrodynamic model that delineates the three-dimensional (3-D) spatiotemporal distribution of endolymph pressure and flow. In vivo electrophysiological recordings of primary afferents supplying the horizontal canal (HC) were employed to validate the model predictions. Data were collected from 213 afferents in 18 fish during independent head rotation. HC indentation, utricle (U) indentation, and paired stimuli. To quantify the afferent response and the relationship between the applied sinusoidal stimuli, the magnitude (gain) and temporal relationship (phase) of the first harmonic of modulation were calculated and compared with theoretical predictions. 2. A mathematical based extensively on the 3-D morphology of a toadfish labyrinth and the physical properties of endolymph is presented to describe the relationship between head rotation and mechanical indentation. All model parameters specifying labyrinthine morphology and physical properties of endolymph are known; the model contains no free parameters. New results are independent of the structural properties of the cupula. The analysis employs an asymptotic solution of the Navier-Stokes equations in the three toroidal ducts that includes the 3-D fluid-structure interaction taking place within the enlarged ampulla. The solution addresses the differential pressure (delta P) acting across the cupula and the dilatational pressure acting on both sides of the cupula. The analysis quantifies the hydrodynamics of the HC for mechanical indentations of the long and slender portion of the canal duct (HC indentation) and the U (U indentation). Results specifically relate the indentation stimuli to head rotation. Linear commutations of HC indentation, U indentation, and rotation stimuli are analyzed by matching delta P acting across the cupula for the three stimulus modalities. 3. HC afferents show a linear correspondence between HC indentation, U indentation, and rotation stimuli. Specific experimental results for sinusoidal stimuli at frequencies < 2 Hz show 1) +/- 1 micron-HC indentation commutates with +/- 4 degrees/s rotation, 2) + 1-micron HC indentation commutates with -/+ 15-microns U indentation, and 3) -/+ 15-microns U indentation commutates with +/- 4 degrees/s rotation. These results were obtained by adjusting the relative amplitude and phase of two stimuli presented simultaneously to achieve destructive interaction that minimizes the afferent modulation (balanced). Equivalent results were obtained using afferent responses to the stimuli applied independently.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)