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Kinetic And Frequency-Domain Properties Of Reflex And Conditioned Eyelid Responses In The Rabbit

Agnès Gruart, Bernard G. Schreurs, Eduardo Domínguez del Toro, JoséMaría Delgado-García

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Eyelid position and the electromyographic activity of the orbicularis oculi muscle were recorded unilaterally in rabbits during reflex and conditioned blinks. Air-puff–evoked blinks consisted of a fast downward phase followed sometimes by successive downward sags. The reopening phase had a much longer duration and slower peak velocity. Onset latency, maximum amplitude, peak velocity, and rise time of reflex blinks depended on the intensity and duration of the air puff–evoking stimulus. A flashlight focused on the eye also evoked reflex blinks, but not flashes of light, or tones. Both delayed and trace classical conditioning paradigms were used. For delayed conditioning, animals were presented with a 350-ms, 90-dB, 600-Hz tone, as conditioned stimulus (CS). For trace conditioning, animals were presented with a 10-ms, 1-k/cm2 air puff, as CS. The unconditioned stimulus (US) consisted of a 100-ms, 3-k/cm2 air puff. The stimulus interval between CS and US onsets was 250 ms. Conditioned responses (CRs) to tones were composed of downward sags that increased in number through the successive conditioning sessions. The onset latency of the CR decreased across conditioning at the same time as its maximum amplitude and its peak velocity increased, but the time-to-peak of the CR remained unaltered. The topography of CRs evoked by short, weak air puffs as the CS showed three different components: the alpha response to the CS, the CR, and the reflex response to the US. Through conditioning, CRs showed a decrease in onset latency, and an increase in maximum amplitude and peak velocity. The time-to-peak of the CR remained unchanged. A power spectrum analysis of reflex and conditioned blink acceleration profiles showed a significant ≈8-Hz oscillation within a broadband of frequencies between 4 and 15 Hz. Nose and mandible movements presented power spectrum profiles different from those characterizing reflex and conditioned blinks. It is concluded that eyelid reflex responses in the rabbit present significant differences from CRs in their profiles and metric properties, suggesting different neural origins, but that a common ≈8-Hz neural oscillator underlies lid motor performance. According to available data, the frequency of this putative oscillator seems to be related to the species size.