Through the process of habituation, continued exposure to low-frequency (0.01 Hz) rotation in the dark produced suppression of the low-frequency response of the vestibule-ocular reflex (VOR) in goldfish. The response did not decay gradually, as might be expected from an error-driven learning process, but displayed several nonlinear and nonstationary features. They included asymmetrical response suppression, magnitude-dependent suppression for lower- but not higher-magnitude head rotations, and abrupt-onset suppressions suggestive of a switching mechanism. Microinjection of lidocaine into the vestibulocerebellum of habituated goldfish resulted in a temporary dishabituation. This suggests that the vestibulocerebellum mediates habituation, presumably through Purkinje cell inhibition of vestibular nuclei neurons. The habituated VOR data were simulated with a feed-forward, nonlinear neural network model of the VOR in which only Purkinje cell inhibition of vestibular nuclei neurons was varied. The model suggests that Purkinje cell inhibition may switch in to introduce nonstationarities, and cause asymmetry and magnitude-dependency in the VOR to emerge from the essential nonlinearity of vestibular nuclei neurons.
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