Gravity-specific adaptation of the angular vestibuloocular reflex: dependence on head orientation with regard to gravity

J Neurophysiol. 2003 Jan;89(1):571-86. doi: 10.1152/jn.00287.2002.


The gain of the vertical angular vestibuloocular reflex (aVOR) was adaptively altered by visual-vestibular mismatch during rotation about an interaural axis, using steps of velocity in three head orientations: upright, left-side down, and right-side down. Gains were decreased by rotating the animal and visual surround in the same direction and increased by visual and surround rotation in opposite directions. Gains were adapted in one head position (single-state adaptation) or decreased with one side down and increased with the other side down (dual-state adaptation). Animals were tested in darkness using sinusoidal rotation at 0.5 Hz about an interaural axis that was tilted from horizontal to vertical. They were also sinusoidally oscillated from 0.5 to 4 Hz about a spatial vertical axis in static tilt positions from yaw to pitch. After both single- and dual-state adaptation, gain changes were maximal when the monkeys were in the position in which the gain had been adapted, and the gain changes progressively declined as the head was tilted away from that position. We call this gravity-specific aVOR gain adaptation. The spatial distribution of the specific aVOR gain changes could be represented by a cosine function that was superimposed on a bias level, which we called gravity-independent gain adaptation. Maximal gravity-specific gain changes were produced by 2-4 h of adaptation for both single- and dual-state adaptations, and changes in gain were similar at all test frequencies. When adapted while upright, the magnitude and distribution of the gravity-specific adaptation was comparable to that when animals were adapted in side-down positions. Single-state adaptation also produced gain changes that were independent of head position re gravity particularly in association with gain reduction. There was no bias after dual-state adaptation. With this difference, fits to data obtained by altering the gain in separate sessions predicted the modulations in gain obtained from dual-state adaptations. These data show that the vertical aVOR gain changes dependent on head position with regard to gravity are continuous functions of head tilt, whose spatial phase depends on the position in which the gain was adapted. From their different characteristics, it is likely that gravity-specific and gravity-independent adaptive changes in gain are produced by separate neural processes. These data demonstrate that head orientation to gravity plays an important role in both orienting and tuning the gain of the vertical aVOR.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Gravitation
  • Gravity Sensing / physiology*
  • Head Movements / physiology
  • Macaca fascicularis
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Orientation / physiology*
  • Posture / physiology
  • Reflex, Vestibulo-Ocular / physiology*
  • Rotation