Maintaining balance after an external perturbation requires modification of ongoing motor plans and the selection of contextually appropriate muscle activation patterns that respect body and limb position. We have used the vestibular system to generate sensory-evoked transitions in motor programming. In the face of a rapid balance perturbation, the lateral vestibular nucleus (LVN) generates exclusive extensor muscle activation and selective early extension of the hindlimb, followed by the co-activation of extensor and flexor muscle groups. The temporal separation in EMG response to balance perturbation reflects two distinct cell types within the LVN that generate different phases of this motor program. Initially, an LVNextensor population directs an extension movement that reflects connections with extensor, but not flexor, motor neurons. A distinct LVNco-activation population initiates muscle co-activation via the pontine reticular nucleus. Thus, distinct circuits within the LVN generate different elements of a motor program involved in the maintenance of balance.
Keywords: balance control; lateral vestibular nucleus; motor transition; neural circuits; neuronal diversity; postural control; vestibular system.
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