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In vivo neuroplasticity in vestibular animal models.

Mol Cell Neurosci. 2022 Mar 22;120:103721. doi: 10.1016/j.mcn.2022.103721. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 35338004.

Authors/Editors: Zwergal A, Lindner M, Grosch M, Dieterich M.
Publication Date: 2022


An acute unilateral vestibulopathy leads to symptoms of vestibular tone imbalance, which gradually decrease over days to weeks due to central vestibular compensation. Animal models of acute peripheral vestibular lesions are optimally suited to investigate the mechanisms underlying this lesion-induced adaptive neuroplasticity. Previous studies applied ex vivo histochemical techniques or local in vivo electrophysiological recordings mostly in the vestibular nucleus complex to delineate the mechanisms involved. Recently, the use of imaging methods, such as positron emission tomography (PET) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), in vestibular animal models have opened a complementary perspective by depicting whole-brain structure and network changes of neuronal activity over time and in correlation to behaviour. Here, we review recent multimodal imaging studies in vestibular animal models with a focus on PET-based measurements of glucose metabolism, glial activation and synaptic plasticity. [18F]-FDG-PET studies indicate dynamic alterations of regional glucose metabolism in brainstem-cerebellar, thalamic, cortical sensory and motor, as well as limbic areas starting early after unilateral labyrinthectomy (UL) in the rat. Sequential whole-brain analysis of the metabolic connectome during vestibular compensation shows a significant increase of connections mostly in the contralesional hemisphere after UL, which reaches a maximum at day 3 and thereby parallels the course of vestibular recovery. Glial activation in the ipsilesional vestibular nerve and nucleus peak between days 7 and 15 after UL. Synaptic density in brainstem-cerebellar circuits decreases until 8 weeks after UL, while it increases in frontal, motor and sensory cortical areas. We finally report how pharmacological compounds modulate the functional and structural plasticity mechanisms during vestibular compensation.


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