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J Neurophysiol. 2005 Jul;94(1):186-98. Epub 2005 Feb 23.

Vestibular perception and action employ qualitatively different mechanisms. I. Frequency response of VOR and perceptual responses during Translation and Tilt.

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  • 1Jenks Vestibular Physiology Laboratory, Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Room 421, MEEI, 243 Charles St., Boston, Massachusetts 02114, USA.


To investigate the neural mechanisms that humans use to process the ambiguous force measured by the otolith organs, we measured vestibuloocular reflexes (VORs) and perceptions of tilt and translation. One primary goal was to determine if the same, or different, mechanisms contribute to vestibular perception and action. We used motion paradigms that provided identical sinusoidal inter-aural otolith cues across a broad frequency range. We accomplished this by sinusoidally tilting (20 degrees, 0.005-0.7 Hz) subjects in roll about an earth-horizontal, head-centered, rotation axis ("Tilt") or sinusoidally accelerating (3.3 m/s2, 0.005-0.7 Hz) subjects along their inter-aural axis ("Translation"). While identical inter-aural otolith cues were provided by these motion paradigms, the canal cues were substantially different because roll rotations were present during Tilt but not during Translation. We found that perception was dependent on canal cues because the reported perceptions of both roll tilt and inter-aural translation were substantially different during Translation and Tilt. These findings match internal model predictions that rotational cues from the canals influence the neural processing of otolith cues. We also found horizontal translational VORs at frequencies >0.2 Hz during both Translation and Tilt. These responses were dependent on otolith cues and match simple filtering predictions that translational VORs include contributions via simple high-pass filtering of otolith cues. More generally, these findings demonstrate that internal models govern human vestibular "perception" across a broad range of frequencies and that simple high-pass filters contribute to human horizontal translational VORs ("action") at frequencies above approximately 0.2 Hz.

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