Physiology of central pathways

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

18 Scopus citations


The relative simplicity of the neural circuits that mediate vestibular reflexes is well suited for linking systems and cellular levels of analyses. Notably, a distinctive feature of the vestibular system is that neurons at the first central stage of sensory processing in the vestibular nuclei are premotor neurons; the same neurons that receive vestibular-nerve input also send direct projections to motor pathways. For example, the simplicity of the three-neuron pathway that mediates the vestibulo-ocular reflex leads to the generation of compensatory eye movements within ~ 5 ms of a head movement. Similarly, relatively direct pathways between the labyrinth and spinal cord control vestibulospinal reflexes. A second distinctive feature of the vestibular system is that the first stage of central processing is strongly multimodal. This is because the vestibular nuclei receive inputs from a wide range of cortical, cerebellar, and other brainstem structures in addition to direct inputs from the vestibular nerve. Recent studies in alert animals have established how extravestibular signals shape these “simple” reflexes to meet the needs of current behavioral goal. Moreover, multimodal interactions at higher levels, such as the vestibular cerebellum, thalamus, and cortex, play a vital role in ensuring accurate self-motion and spatial orientation perception.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationHandbook of Clinical Neurology
PublisherElsevier B.V.
Number of pages24
StatePublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameHandbook of Clinical Neurology
ISSN (Print)00729752
ISSN (Electronic)22124152


  • computation
  • corollary discharge
  • efference copy
  • multisensory
  • navigation
  • proprioception
  • reference frame
  • self-motion
  • spatial orientation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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