The increased sensitivity of irregular peripheral canal and otolith vestibular afferents optimizes their encoding of natural stimuli

Adam D. Schneider, Mohsen Jamali, Jerome Carriot, Maurice J. Chacron, Kathleen E. Cullen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Efficient processing of incoming sensory input is essential for an organism’s survival. A growing body of evidence suggests that sensory systems have developed coding strategies that are constrained by the statistics of the natural environment. Consequently, it is necessary to first characterize neural responses to natural stimuli to uncover the coding strategies used by a given sensory system. Here we report for the first time the statistics of vestibular rotational and translational stimuli experienced by rhesus monkeys during natural (e.g., walking, grooming) behaviors. We find that these stimuli can reach intensities as high as 1500 deg/s and 8 G. Recordings from afferents during naturalistic rotational and linear motion further revealed strongly nonlinear responses in the form of rectification and saturation, which could not be accurately predicted by traditional linear models of vestibular processing. Accordingly, we used linear–nonlinear cascade models and found that these could accurately predict responses to naturalistic stimuli. Finally, we tested whether the statistics of natural vestibular signals constrain the neural coding strategies used by peripheral afferents. We found that both irregular otolith and semicircular canal afferents, because of their higher sensitivities, were more optimized for processing natural vestibular stimuli as compared with their regular counterparts. Our results therefore provide the first evidence supporting the hypothesis that the neural coding strategies used by the vestibular system are matched to the statistics of natural stimuli.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5522-5536
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Volume35
Issue number14
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 8 2015
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Natural stimuli
  • Optimal coding
  • Sensitivity
  • Vestibular afferent

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'The increased sensitivity of irregular peripheral canal and otolith vestibular afferents optimizes their encoding of natural stimuli'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this