Pursuit-vestibular interactions in brain stem neurons during rotation and translation

Hui Meng, Andrea M. Green, J. David Dickman, Dora E. Angelaki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Under natural conditions, the vestibular and pursuit systems work synergistically to stabilize the visual scene during movement. How translational vestibular signals [translational vestibuloocular reflex (TVOR)] are processed in the premotor pathways for slow eye movements continues to remain a challenging question. To further our understanding of how premotor neurons contribute to this processing, we recorded neural activities from the prepositus and rostral medial vestibular nuclei in macaque monkeys. Vestibular neurons were tested during 0.5-Hz rotation and lateral translation (both with gaze stable and during VOR cancellation tasks), as well as during smooth pursuit eye movements. Data were collected at two different viewing distances, 80 and 20 cm. Based on their responses to rotation and pursuit, eye-movement-sensitive neurons were classified into position-vestibular-pause (PVP) neurons, eye-head (EH) neurons, and burst-tonic (BT) cells. We found that approximately half of the type II PVP and EH neurons with ipsilateral eye movement preference were modulated during TVOR cancellation. In contrast, few of the EH and none of the type I PVP cells with contralateral eye movement preference modulated during translation in the absence of eye movements; nor did any of the BT neurons change their firing rates during TVOR cancellation. Of the type II PVP and EH neurons that modulated during TVOR cancellation, cell firing rates increased for either ipsilateral or contralateral displacement, a property that could not be predicted on the basis of their rotational or pursuit responses. In contrast, under stable gaze conditions, all neuron types, including EH cells, were modulated during translation according to their ipsilateral/contralateral preference for pursuit eye movements. Differences in translational response sensitivities for far versus near targets were seen only in type II PVP and EH cells. There was no effect of viewing distance on response phase for any cell type. When expressed relative to motor output, neural sensitivities during translation (although not during rotation) and pursuit were equivalent, particularly for the 20-cm viewing distance. These results suggest that neural activities during the TVOR were more motorlike compared with cell responses during the rotational vestibuloocular reflex (RVOR). We also found that neural responses under stable gaze conditions could not always be predicted by a linear vectorial addition of the cell activities during pursuit and VOR cancellation. The departure from linearity was more pronounced for the TVOR under near-viewing conditions. These results extend previous observations for the neural processing of otolith signals within the premotor circuitry that generates the RVOR and smooth pursuit eye movements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3418-3433
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Physiology


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