Responses of monkey vestibular-only neurons to translation and angular rotation

J Neurophysiol. 2006 Dec;96(6):2915-30. doi: 10.1152/jn.00013.2006. Epub 2006 Aug 30.


Single-unit recordings were obtained from central vestibular neurons in three monkeys during passive head movements. Neurons that discharged in relation to head translation or changes in head orientation, but not eye movement ("vestibular-only," n = 154), were examined in detail. Neuronal discharge rates were analyzed during four stimulus conditions: sinusoidal head translation in the horizontal plane (0.2-4 Hz, 0.2 g peak acceleration), static head tilt in the vertical plane (+/-20 degrees ), oscillatory head tilt (0.5-2 Hz), and sinusoidal angular rotation about an earth-vertical axis (0.5 or 1 Hz). Vestibular-only cells were divided into two groups based on the regularity of their spontaneous discharge rates (CV*). One group (low-sensitivity units) exhibited regular discharge rates (CV* < 0.2), weak discharge modulation during head translation (<25 spikes . s(-1) . g(-1) at f = 1 Hz), and persistent discharge rates related to static head tilt (0.68 spikes . s(-1) . degrees (-1) of head tilt). The second group (high sensitivity neurons) exhibited irregular discharge rates (CV* > 0.2), strong discharge modulation during head translation ( approximately 100 spikes . s(-1) . g(-1) at f = 1 Hz), and little or no change in discharge rate during static head tilt (0.32 spikes . s(-1) . degrees (-1)). The firing rates of some neurons in both groups were modulated during rotation about an earth-vertical axis (42%), but the modulation was greater for neurons classified as high sensitivity units. Previous reports have described neurons similar to the high sensitivity group; however, the low sensitivity or tilt neurons have not previously been characterized. Significantly, recent theoretical models have predicted neurons with discharge patterns similar to those of low- and high-sensitivity neurons.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acceleration
  • Animals
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Electrodes, Implanted
  • Eye Movements / physiology*
  • Fixation, Ocular / physiology
  • Gravitation
  • Head Movements / physiology*
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology
  • Orientation / physiology
  • Otolithic Membrane / physiology
  • Rotation
  • Stereotaxic Techniques
  • Vestibule, Labyrinth / cytology
  • Vestibule, Labyrinth / physiology*