Roles of gravitational cues and efference copy signals in the rotational updating of memory saccades

J Neurophysiol. 2005 Jul;94(1):468-78. doi: 10.1152/jn.00700.2004. Epub 2005 Feb 16.


Primates are able to localize a briefly flashed target despite intervening movements of the eyes, head, or body. This ability, often referred to as updating, requires extraretinal signals related to the intervening movement. With active roll rotations of the head from an upright position it has been shown that the updating mechanism is 3-dimensional, robust, and geometrically sophisticated. Here we examine whether such a rotational updating mechanism operates during passive motion both with and without inertial cues about head/body position in space. Subjects were rotated from either an upright or supine position, about a nasal-occipital axis, briefly shown a world-fixed target, rotated back to their original position, and then asked to saccade to the remembered target location. Using this paradigm, we tested subjects' abilities to update from various tilt angles (0, +/-30, +/-45, +/-90 degrees), to 8 target directions and 2 target eccentricities. In the upright condition, subjects accurately updated the remembered locations from all tilt angles independent of target direction or eccentricity. Slopes of directional errors versus tilt angle ranged from -0.011 to 0.15, and were significantly different from a slope of 1 (no compensation for head-in-space roll) and a slope of 0.9 (no compensation for eye-in-space roll). Because the eyes, head, and body were fixed throughout these passive movements, subjects could not use efference copies or neck proprioceptive cues to assess the amount of tilt, suggesting that vestibular signals and/or body proprioceptive cues suffice for updating. In the supine condition, where gravitational signals could not contribute, slopes ranged from 0.60 to 0.82, indicating poor updating performance. Thus information specifying the body's orientation relative to gravity is critical for maintaining spatial constancy and for distinguishing body-fixed versus world-fixed reference frames.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Cues*
  • Gravitation*
  • Head Movements / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Orientation / physiology
  • Regression Analysis
  • Saccades / physiology*
  • Signal Detection, Psychological / physiology*
  • Space Perception / physiology*