Neural variability determines coding strategies for natural self-motion in macaque monkeys

Isabelle Mackrous, Jérome Carriot, Kathleen E. Cullen, Maurice J. Chacron

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We have previously reported that central neurons mediating vestibulo-spinal reflexes and self-motion perception optimally encode natural self-motion (Mitchell et al., 2018). Importantly however, the vestibular nuclei also comprise other neuronal classes that mediate essential functions such as the vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR) and its adaptation. Here we show that heterogeneities in resting discharge variability mediate a trade-off between faithful encoding and optimal coding via temporal whitening. Specifically, neurons displaying lower variability did not whiten naturalistic selfmotion but instead faithfully represented the stimulus’ detailed time course, while neurons displaying higher variability displayed temporal whitening. Using a well-established model of VOR pathways, we demonstrate that faithful stimulus encoding is necessary to generate the compensatory eye movements found experimentally during naturalistic self-motion. Our findings suggest a novel functional role for variability toward establishing different coding strategies: (1) faithful stimulus encoding for generating the VOR; (2) optimized coding via temporal whitening for other vestibular functions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere57484
Pages (from-to)1-22
Number of pages22
StatePublished - Sep 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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