Neural Correlates of Sensory Prediction Errors in Monkeys: Evidence for Internal Models of Voluntary Self-Motion in the Cerebellum

Kathleen E. Cullen, Jessica X. Brooks

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


During self-motion, the vestibular system makes essential contributions to postural stability and self-motion perception. To ensure accurate perception and motor control, it is critical to distinguish between vestibular sensory inputs that are the result of externally applied motion (exafference) and that are the result of our own actions (reafference). Indeed, although the vestibular sensors encode vestibular afference and reafference with equal fidelity, neurons at the first central stage of sensory processing selectively encode vestibular exafference. The mechanism underlying this reafferent suppression compares the brain’s motor-based expectation of sensory feedback with the actual sensory consequences of voluntary self-motion, effectively computing the sensory prediction error (i.e., exafference). It is generally thought that sensory prediction errors are computed in the cerebellum, yet it has been challenging to explicitly demonstrate this. We have recently addressed this question and found that deep cerebellar nuclei neurons explicitly encode sensory prediction errors during self-motion. Importantly, in everyday life, sensory prediction errors occur in response to changes in the effector or world (muscle strength, load, etc.), as well as in response to externally applied sensory stimulation. Accordingly, we hypothesize that altering the relationship between motor commands and the actual movement parameters will result in the updating in the cerebellum-based computation of exafference. If our hypothesis is correct, under these conditions, neuronal responses should initially be increased—consistent with a sudden increase in the sensory prediction error. Then, over time, as the internal model is updated, response modulation should decrease in parallel with a reduction in sensory prediction error, until vestibular reafference is again suppressed. The finding that the internal model predicting the sensory consequences of motor commands adapts for new relationships would have important implications for understanding how responses to passive stimulation endure despite the cerebellum’s ability to learn new relationships between motor commands and sensory feedback.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)31-34
Number of pages4
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Cerebellum
  • Corollary discharge
  • Efference copy
  • Internal models
  • Motor learning
  • Primate
  • Vestibular

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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