The spatial organization of fast phase velocity vectors of the vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR) was studied in rhesus monkeys during yaw rotations about an earth-horizontal axis that changed continuously the orientation of the head relative to gravity ('barbecue spit' rotation). In addition to a velocity component parallel to the rotation axis, fast phases also exhibited a velocity component that invariably was oriented along the momentary direction of gravity. As the head rotated through supine and prone positions, torsional components of fast phase velocity axes became prominent. Similarly, as the head rotated through left and right ear-down positions, fast phase velocity axes exhibited prominent vertical components. The larger the speed of head rotation the greater the magnitude of this fast phase component, which was collinear with gravity. The main sequence properties of VOR fast phases were independent of head position. However, peak amplitude as well as peak velocity of fast phases were both modulated as a function of head orientation, exhibiting a minimum in prone position. The results suggest that the fast phases of vestibulo-ocular reflexes not only redirect gaze and reposition the eye in the direction of head motion but also reorient the eye with respect to earth-vertical when the head moves relative to gravity. As further elaborated in the companion paper, the underlying mechanism could be described as a dynamic, gravity-dependent modulation of the coordinates of ocular rotations relative to the head.
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