The caudal aspect of the parabrachial nucleus (PBN) contains neurons responsive to whole body, periodic rotational stimulation in alert monkeys (Balaban et al. in J Neurophysiol 88:3175-3193, 2002). This study characterizes the angular and linear motion-sensitive response properties of PBN unit responses during off-vertical axis rotation (OVAR) and position trapezoid stimulation. The OVAR responses displayed a constant firing component which varied from the firing rate at rest. Nearly two-thirds of the units also modulated their discharges with respect to head orientation (re: gravity) during constant velocity OVAR stimulation. The modulated response magnitudes were equal during ipsilateral and contralateral OVARs, indicative of a one-dimensional accelerometer. These response orientations during OVAR divided the units into three spatially tuned populations, with peak modulation responses centered in the ipsilateral ear down, contralateral anterior semicircular canal down, and occiput down orientations. Because the orientation of the OVAR modulation response was opposite in polarity to the orientation of the static tilt component of responses to position trapezoids for the majority of units, the linear acceleration responses were divided into colinear dynamic linear and static tilt components. The orientations of these unit responses formed two distinct population response axes: (1) units with an interaural linear response axis and (2) units with an ipsilateral anterior semicircular canal-contralateral posterior semicircular canal plane linear response axis. The angular rotation sensitivity of these units is in a head-vertical plane that either contains the linear acceleration response axis or is perpendicular to the linear acceleration axis. Hence, these units behave like head-based ('strapdown') inertial guidance sensors. Because the PBN contributes to sensory and interoceptive processing, it is suggested that vestibulo-recipient caudal PBN units may detect potentially dangerous anomalies in control of postural stability during locomotion. In particular, these signals may contribute to the range of affective and emotional responses that include panic associated with falling, malaise associated with motion sickness and mal-de-debarquement, and comorbid balance and anxiety disorders.
Keywords: Alert non-human primate; Electrophysiology; Linear acceleration sensitivity; Vestibular.