Brain Structure and Function
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© 2017, The Author(s). The vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR) adaptation is an ideal model for investigating how the neurosteroid 17 beta-estradiol (E2) contributes to the modification of behavior by regulating synaptic activities. We hypothesized that E2 impacts VOR adaptation by affecting cerebellar synaptic plasticity at the parallel fiber–Purkinje cell (PF) synapse. To verify this hypothesis, we investigated the acute effect of blocking E2 synthesis on gain increases and decreases in adaptation of the VOR in male rats using an oral dose (2.5 mg/kg) of the aromatase inhibitor letrozole. We also assessed the effect of letrozole on synaptic plasticity at the PF synapse in vitro, using cerebellar slices from male rats. We found that letrozole acutely impaired both gain increases and decreases adaptation of the VOR without altering basal ocular-motor performance. Moreover, letrozole prevented long-term potentiation at the PF synapse (PF-LTP) without affecting long-term depression (PF-LTD). Thus, in male rats neurosteroid E2 has a relevant impact on VOR adaptation and affects exclusively PF-LTP. These findings suggest that E2 might regulate changes in VOR adaptation by acting locally on cerebellar and extra-cerebellar synaptic plasticity sites.