How actions alter sensory processing: Reafference in the vestibular system

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

19 Scopus citations


Our vestibular organs are simultaneously activated by our own actions as well as by stimulation from the external world. The ability to distinguish sensory inputs that are a consequence of our own actions (vestibular reafference) from those that result from changes in the external world (vestibular exafference) is essential for perceptual stability and accurate motor control. Recent work in our laboratory has focused on understanding how the brain distinguishes between vestibular reafference and exafference. Single-unit recordings were made in alert rhesus monkeys during passive and voluntary (i.e., active) head movements. We found that neurons in the first central stage of vestibular processing (vestibular nuclei), but not the primary vestibular afferents, can distinguish between active and passive movements. In order to better understand how neurons differentiate active from passive head motion, we systematically tested neuronal responses to different combinations of passive and active motion resulting from rotation of the head-on-body and/or head-and-body in space. We found that during active movements, a cancellation signal was generated when the activation of proprioceptors matched the motor-generated expectation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationBasic and Clinical Aspects of Vertigo and Dizziness
PublisherBlackwell Publishing Inc.
Number of pages8
ISBN (Print)9781573317177
StatePublished - May 2009
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameAnnals of the New York Academy of Sciences
ISSN (Print)0077-8923
ISSN (Electronic)1749-6632


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

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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