Adaptive rescaling adjusts the sensitivities of sensory responses for efficient signal transmission under varying stimulus conditions. The possibility that rescaling could improve the performance of the vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR) after sensory loss has not been investigated.
Materials and methods
We recorded from isolated vestibular neurons in alert cats that had recovered from peripheral vestibular damage. Stimuli consisted of rotation at 1 Hz with peak velocities of 10–120 deg/s. The sensitivities and dynamic ranges of vestibular neurons were measured.
Significant rescaling was seen both ipsilateral and contralateral to the damaged side. When the peak velocity increased by a factor of 8, the average sensitivity to rotation of the sample of neurons decreased by roughly a factor of 2. The dynamic ranges of central neurons and of the VOR appeared to increase at higher peak velocities.
Our results suggest that after vestibular damage, adaptive rescaling improves signal transmission by central vestibular neurons and may act to restore the dynamic range in the response of the VOR to rotation at high speeds.