Dissociating Self-Generated from Passively Applied Head Motion: Neural Mechanisms in the Vestibular Nuclei

Jefferson E. Roy, Kathleen E. Cullen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

162 Scopus citations


The ability to distinguish sensory inputs that are a consequence of our own actions from those that result from changes in the external world is essential for perceptual stability and accurate motor control. To accomplish this, it has been proposed that an internal prediction of the consequences of our actions is compared with the actual sensory input to cancel the resultant self-generated activation. Here, we provide evidence for this hypothesis at an early stage of processing in the vestibular system. Previous studies have shown that neurons in the vestibular nucleus, which receive direct inputs from vestibular afferent fibers, are responsive to passively applied head movements. However, these same neurons do not reliably encode head velocity resulting from self-generated movements of the head on the body. In this study, we examined the mechanism that underlies the selective elimination of vestibular sensitivity to active head-on-body rotations. Individual neurons were recorded in monkeys making active head movements. The correspondence between intended and actual head movement was experimentally controlled. We found that a cancellation signal was gated into the vestibular nuclei only in conditions in which the activation of neck proprioceptors matched that expected on the basis of the neck motor command. This finding suggests that vestibular signals that arise from self-generated head movements are inhibited by a mechanism that compares the internal prediction of the sensory consequences by the brain to the actual resultant sensory feedback. Because self-generated vestibular inputs are selectively cancelled early in processing, we propose that this gating important for the computation of spatial orientation and control of posture by higher-order structures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2102-2111
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number9
StatePublished - Mar 3 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Efference copy
  • Gaze shift
  • Head-unrestrained
  • Reafference
  • Self-motion
  • Vestibular nucleus
  • Vestibular reflexes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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