Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 210, Issue 3–4, pp 377–388 | Cite as

Internal models of self-motion: computations that suppress vestibular reafference in early vestibular processing

  • Kathleen E. Cullen
  • Jessica X. Brooks
  • Mohsen Jamali
  • Jerome Carriot
  • Corentin Massot


In everyday life, vestibular sensors are activated by both self-generated and externally applied head movements. The ability to distinguish inputs that are a consequence of our own actions (i.e., active motion) from those that result from changes in the external world (i.e., passive or unexpected motion) is essential for perceptual stability and accurate motor control. Recent work has made progress toward understanding how the brain distinguishes between these two kinds of sensory inputs. We have performed a series of experiments in which single-unit recordings were made from vestibular afferents and central neurons in alert macaque monkeys during rotation and translation. Vestibular afferents showed no differences in firing variability or sensitivity during active movements when compared to passive movements. In contrast, the analyses of neuronal firing rates revealed that neurons at the first central stage of vestibular processing (i.e., in the vestibular nuclei) were effectively less sensitive to active motion. Notably, however, this ability to distinguish between active and passive motion was not a general feature of early central processing, but rather was a characteristic of a distinct group of neurons known to contribute to postural control and spatial orientation. Our most recent studies have addressed how vestibular and proprioceptive inputs are integrated in the vestibular cerebellum, a region likely to be involved in generating an internal model of self-motion. We propose that this multimodal integration within the vestibular cerebellum is required for eliminating self-generated vestibular information from the subsequent computation of orientation and posture control at the first central stage of processing.


Vestibular nucleus Cerebellum Internal model Active/passive Reafference Afferent Self-motion Vestibular reflexes 



We thank Steve Nuara for assistance with animal care, and Walter Kucharski for excellent technical assistance, and D.E. Mitchell for critically reading this manuscript. This work was funded by Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Le Fonds québécois de la recherche sur la nature et les technologies, and the National Institute of Health (R01DC2390).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kathleen E. Cullen
    • 1
  • Jessica X. Brooks
    • 1
  • Mohsen Jamali
    • 1
  • Jerome Carriot
    • 1
  • Corentin Massot
    • 1
  1. 1.Aerospace Medical Research Unit, Department of PhysiologyMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada

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