Vestibular influences on the autonomic nervous system

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1996 Jun 19;781:458-73. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.1996.tb15720.x.


Considerable evidence exists to suggest that both sympathetic and respiratory outflow from the central nervous system are influenced by the vestibular system. Otolith organs that respond to pitch rotations seem to play a predominant role in producing vestibulo-sympathetic and vestibulo-respiratory responses in cats. Because postural changes involving nose-up pitch challenge the maintenance of stable blood pressure and blood oxygenation in this species, vestibular effects on the sympathetic and respiratory systems are appropriate to participate in maintaining homeostasis during movement. Vestibular influences on respiration and circulation are mediated by a relatively small portion of the vestibular nuclear complex comprising regions in the medial and inferior vestibular nuclei just caudal to Deiters' nucleus. Vestibular signals are transmitted to sympathetic preganglionic neurons in the spinal cord through pathways that typically regulate the cardiovascular system. In contrast, vestibular effects on respiratory motoneurons are mediated in part by neural circuits that are not typically involved in the generation of breathing.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autonomic Nervous System / physiology*
  • Blood Pressure*
  • Brain Stem / physiology
  • Cats
  • Cerebellum / physiology
  • Decerebrate State
  • Interneurons / physiology
  • Posture
  • Reflex / physiology
  • Respiration*
  • Spinal Cord / physiology
  • Vestibule, Labyrinth / physiology*