Descending vestibular pathways have been shown to influence recruitment thresholds of alpha motoneurones in both human and cat. However, whereas parallel connections to the fusimotor system have been shown in the cat, such connections have not yet been demonstrated in humans. In the present study we investigated whether vestibular inputs can influence the firing of spontaneously active muscle spindles in the leg via activation of gamma motoneurones. Unitary recordings were made from 30 muscle spindle aVerents via tungsten microelectrodes inserted percutaneously into the common peroneal nerve of seated awake human subjects. Sinusoidal bipolar binaural galvanic vestibular stimulation (GVS; frequency 0.2, 0.5, 0.8 Hz, amplitude ±2 mA, 100 cycles) was applied to the mastoid processes. This continuous stimulation produced a sustained frequency-dependent illusion of “rocking in a boat” or “swinging in a hammock”. Despite these robust illusions none of the spontaneously active musclespindles exhibited phase-locked modulation of firing during sinusoidal GVS. We conclude that this dynamic vestibular input was not suYcient to recruit gamma motoneurones, which are known to have little spontaneous activity in relaxed human muscles.
Experimental Brain Research Vol. 180, Issue 1, p. 97-103