Multisensory integration in early vestibular processing in mice: The encoding of passive vs. active motion

Ioana Medrea, Kathleen E. Cullen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The mouse has become an important model system for studying the cellular basis of learning and coding of heading by the vestibular system. Here we recorded from single neurons in the vestibular nuclei to understand how vestibular pathways encode self-motion under natural conditions, during which proprioceptive and motor-related signals as well as vestibular inputs provide feedback about an animal's movement through the world. We recorded neuronal responses in alert behaving mice focusing on a group of neurons, termed vestibular-only cells, that are known to control posture and project to higher-order centers. We found that the majority (70%, n = 21/30) of neurons were bimodal, in that they responded robustly to passive stimulation of proprioceptors as well as passive stimulation of the vestibular system. Additionally, the linear summation of a given neuron's vestibular and neck sensitivities predicted well its responses when both stimuli were applied simultaneously. In contrast, neuronal responses were suppressed when the same motion was actively generated, with the one striking exception that the activity of bimodal neurons similarly and robustly encoded head on body position in all conditions. Our results show that proprioceptive and motor-related signals are combined with vestibular information at the first central stage of vestibular processing in mice. We suggest that these results have important implications for understanding the multisensory integration underlying accurate postural control and the neural representation of directional heading in the head direction cell network of mice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2704-2717
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 15 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Corollary discharge
  • Efference copy
  • Head direction
  • Head movement
  • Proprioception
  • Self-motion
  • Sensory coding
  • Vestibular
  • Voluntary movement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Physiology


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