Vestibular discrimination of gravity and translational acceleration

Dora E. Angelaki, Min Wei, Daniel M. Merfeld

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


According to Einstein's equivalence principle, linear accelerations experienced during translational motion are physically indistinguishable from changes in orientation relative to gravity experienced during tilting movements. Nevertheless, despite these ambiguous sensory cues provided by the primary otolith afferents, perceptual and motor responses discriminate between gravity and translational acceleration. There is growing evidence to suggest that the brain resolves this ambiguity primarily by combining signals from multiple sensors, the semicircular canals being a main extra otolith contributor. Here, we summarize the experimental evidence in support of the canal influences on the neural processing of otolith cues, provide specific experimental results in rhesus monkeys, and discuss and compare previously proposed models that combine otolith and semicircular-canal signals in order to provide neural estimates of gravity and linear acceleration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)114-127
Number of pages14
JournalAnnals of the New York Academy of Sciences
StatePublished - 2001


  • Eye movements
  • Gravity
  • Inertial
  • Navigation
  • Neural computation
  • Oculomotor
  • Vestibular

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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