Multisensory integration and internal models for sensing gravity effects in primates

Francesco Lacquaniti, Gianfranco Bosco, Silvio Gravano, Iole Indovina, Barbara La Scaleia, Vincenzo Maffei, Myrka Zago

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Gravity is crucial for spatial perception, postural equilibrium, and movement generation. The vestibular apparatus is the main sensory system involved in monitoring gravity. Hair cells in the vestibular maculae respond to gravitoinertial forces, but they cannot distinguish between linear accelerations and changes of head orientation relative to gravity. The brain deals with this sensory ambiguity (which can cause some lethal airplane accidents) by combining several cues with the otolith signals: angular velocity signals provided by the semicircular canals, proprioceptive signals from muscles and tendons, visceral signals related to gravity, and visual signals. In particular, vision provides both static and dynamic signals about body orientation relative to the vertical, but it poorly discriminates arbitrary accelerations of moving objects. However, we are able to visually detect the specific acceleration of gravity since early infancy. This ability depends on the fact that gravity effects are stored in brain regions which integrate visual, vestibular, and neck proprioceptive signals and combine this information with an internal model of gravity effects.

Original languageEnglish
Article number615854
JournalBioMed Research International
Volume2014
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2014

    Fingerprint

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Medicine(all)

Cite this