Response properties of pigeon otolith afferents to linear acceleration

Xiaohong Si, Dora E. Angelaki, J. David Dickman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the present study, the sensitivity to sinusoidal linear accelerations in the plane of the utricular macula was tested in afferents. The head orientation relative to the translation axis was varied in order to determine the head position that elicited the maximal and minimal responses for each afferent. The response gain and phase values obtained to 0.5-Hz and 2-Hz linear acceleration stimuli were then plotted as a function of head orientation and a modified cosine function was fit to the data. From the best-fit cosine function, the predicted head orientations that would produce the maximal and minimal response gains were estimated. The estimated maximum response gains to linear acceleration in the utricular plane for the afferents varied between 75 and 1420 spikes s-1 g-1. The mean maximal gains for all afferents to 0.5-Hz and 2-Hz sinusoidal linear acceleration stimuli were 282 and 367 spikes s-1 g-1, respectively. The minimal response gains were essentially zero for most units. The response phases always led linear acceleration and remained constant for each afferent, regardless of head orientation. These response characteristics indicate that otolith afferents are cosine tuned and behave as one-dimensional linear accelerometers. The directions of maximal sensitivity to linear acceleration for the afferents varied throughout the plane of the utricle; however, most vectors were directed out of the opposite ear near the interaural axis. The response dynamics of the afferents were tested using stimulus frequencies ranging between 0.25 Hz and 10 Hz (0.1 g peak acceleration). Across stimulus frequencies, most afferents had increasing gains and constant phase values. These dynamic properties for individual afferents were fit with a simple transfer function that included three parameters: a mechanical time constant, a gain constant, and a fractional order distributed adaptation operator.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)242-250
Number of pages9
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1997


  • Macula
  • Oculomotor
  • Primary afferents
  • Utricle
  • Vestibular
  • Vestibulo-cochlear nerve

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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