Vestibular epithelia of the inner ear detect head motions over a wide range of amplitudes and frequencies. In mammals, afferent nerve fibers from central and peripheral zones of vestibular epithelia form distinct populations with different response dynamics and spike timing. Central-zone afferents are large, fast conduits for phasic signals encoded in irregular spike trains. The finer afferents from peripheral zones conduct more slowly and encode more tonic, linear signals in highly regular spike trains. The hair cells are also of two types, I and II, but the two types do not correspond directly to the two afferent populations. Zonal differences in afferent response dynamics may arise at multiple stages, including mechanoelectrical transduction, voltage-gated channels in hair cells and afferents, afferent transmission at calyceal and bouton synapses, and spike generation in regular and irregular afferents. In contrast, zonal differences in spike timing may depend more simply on the selective expression of low-voltage-activated ion channels by irregular afferents.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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