Three-dimensional organization of otolith-ocular reflexes in rhesus monkeys. I. Linear acceleration responses during off-vertical axis rotation

Dora E. Angelaki, Bernhard J.M. Hess

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


1. The dynamic properties of otolith-ocular reflexes elicited by sinusoidal linear acceleration along the three cardinal head axes were studied during off-vertical axis rotations in rhesus monkeys. As the head rotates in space at constant velocity about an off-vertical axis, otolith- ocular reflexes are elicited in response to the sinusoidally varying linear acceleration (gravity) components along the interaural, nasooccipital, or vertical head axis. Because the frequency of these sinusoidal stimuli is proportional to the velocity of rotation, rotation at low and moderately fast speeds allows the study of the mid- and low-frequency dynamics of these otolith-ocular reflexes. 2. Animals were rotated in complete darkness in the yaw, pitch, and roll planes at velocities ranging between 7.4 and 184°/s. Accordingly, otolith-ocular reflexes (manifested as sinusoidal modulations in eye position and/or slow-phase eye velocity) were quantitatively studied for stimulus frequencies ranging between 0.02 and 0.51 Hz. During yaw and roll rotation, torsional, vertical, and horizontal slow-phase eye velocity was sinusoidally modulated as a function of head position. The amplitudes of these responses were symmetric for rotations in opposite directions. In contrast, mainly vertical slow-phase eye velocity was modulated during pitch rotation. This modulation was asymmetric for rotations in opposite direction. 3. Each of these response components in a given rotation plane could be associated with an otolith-ocular response vector whose sensitivity, temporal phase, and spatial orientation were estimated on the basis of the amplitude and phase of sinusoidal modulations during both directions of rotation. Based on this analysis, which was performed either for slow-phase eye velocity alone or for total eye excursion (including both slow and fast eye movements), two distinct response patterns were observed: 1) response vectors with pronounced dynamics and spatial/temporal properties that could be characterized as the low-frequency range of 'translational' otolith-ocular reflexes; and 2) response vectors associated with an eye position modulation in phase with head position ('tilt' otolith-ocular reflexes). 4. The responses associated with two otolith-ocular vectors with pronounced dynamics consisted of horizontal eye movements evoked as a function of gravity along the interaural axis and vertical eye movements elicited as a function of gravity along the vertical head axis. Both responses were characterized by a slow-phase eye velocity sensitivity that increased three- to five-fold and large phase changes of ~100-180° between 0.02 and 0.51 Hz. These dynamic properties could suggest nontraditional temporal processing in utriculoocular and sacculoocular pathways, possibly involving spatiotemporal otolith-ocular interactions. 5. The two otolith-ocular vectors associated with eye position responses in phase with head position (tilt otolith-ocular reflexes) consisted of torsional eye movements in response to gravity along the interaural axis, and vertical eye movements in response to gravity along the nasooccipital head axis. These otolith-ocular responses did not result from an otolithic effect on slow eye movements alone. Particularly at high frequencies (i.e., high speed rotations), saccades were responsible for most of the modulation of torsional and vertical eye position, which was relatively large (on average ±8-10°/g) and remained independent of frequency. Such reflex dynamics can be simulated by a direct coupling of primary otolith afferent inputs to the oculomotor plant. Despite the large modulation of torsional and vertical eye position due to both fast and slow eye movements, modulation of slow-phase eye velocity was small for all frequencies (on average ±4-10°/s/g). 6. These results suggest that torsional and vertical responses (previously described as 'counter-rolling' and 'counter-pitching' or tilt otolith-ocular reflexes) represent an otolithic effect on both fast and slow eye movement components of the primate oculomotor system. The combined otolithic effect on both fast and slow eye movements possibly reflects a dynamic dependence of oculomotor (i.e., Listing's) coordinates on head orientation in space, suggesting a function that is probably related to spatial orientation and motor coordination rather than gaze stabilization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2405-2424
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Physiology


Dive into the research topics of 'Three-dimensional organization of otolith-ocular reflexes in rhesus monkeys. I. Linear acceleration responses during off-vertical axis rotation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this