Purkinje cells in posterior cerebellar vermis encode motion in an inertial reference frame.

Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO 63110, USA.
Neuron (Impact Factor: 15.98). 07/2007; 54(6):973-85. DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2007.06.003
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The ability to orient and navigate through the terrestrial environment represents a computational challenge common to all vertebrates. It arises because motion sensors in the inner ear, the otolith organs, and the semicircular canals transduce self-motion in an egocentric reference frame. As a result, vestibular afferent information reaching the brain is inappropriate for coding our own motion and orientation relative to the outside world. Here we show that cerebellar cortical neuron activity in vermal lobules 9 and 10 reflects the critical computations of transforming head-centered vestibular afferent information into earth-referenced self-motion and spatial orientation signals. Unlike vestibular and deep cerebellar nuclei neurons, where a mixture of responses was observed, Purkinje cells represent a homogeneous population that encodes inertial motion. They carry the earth-horizontal component of a spatially transformed and temporally integrated rotation signal from the semicircular canals, which is critical for computing head attitude, thus isolating inertial linear accelerations during navigation.

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