Readaptation of the vestibuloocular reflex to 1g-condition in immature lower vertebrates (Xenopus laevis) after micro- or hypergravity exposure.
The effects of altered gravitational conditions (AGC) on the development of the static vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR) and readaptation to 1g were investigated in the amphibian Xenopus laevis. Tadpoles were exposed to microgravity during the German Space Mission D-2 for 10 days, using the STATEX closed survival system, or to 3g for 9 days during earth-bound experiments. At the beginning of AGC, the tadpoles had not yet developed the static VOR. The main results were: (i) Tadpoles with microgravity- or 3g-experience had a lower gain of the static VOR than the 1g-controls during the 2nd and 5th post-AGC days. (ii) Readaptation to response levels of 1g-reared controls usually occurred during the following weeks, except in slowly developing tadpoles with 3g-experience. Readaptation was less pronounced if, during the acute VOR test, tadpoles were rolled from the inclined to the normal posture than in the opposite test situation. It is postulated that (i) gravity is necessarily involved in the development of the static VOR, but only during a period including the time before onset of the first behavioural response; and (ii) readaptation which is superimposed by the processes of VOR development depends on many factors including the velocity of development, the actual excitation level of the vestibular systems and the neuroplastic properties of its specific pathways.