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Cerebellar re-encoding of self-generated head movements

Guillaume P Dugué, Matthieu Tihy, Boris Gourévitch, Clément Léna.


Head movements are primarily sensed in a reference frame tied to the head, yet they are used to calculate self-orientation relative to the world. This requires to re-encode head kinematic signals into a reference frame anchored to earth-centered landmarks such as gravity, through computations whose neuronal substrate remains to be determined. Here, we studied the encoding of self-generated head movements in the rat caudal cerebellar vermis, an area essential for graviceptive functions. We found that, contrarily to peripheral vestibular inputs, most Purkinje cells exhibited a mixed sensitivity to head rotational and gravitational information and were differentially modulated by active and passive movements. In a subpopulation of cells, this mixed sensitivity underlay a tuning to rotations about an axis defined relative to gravity. Therefore, we show that the caudal vermis hosts a re-encoded, gravitationally-polarized representation of self-generated head kinematics in freely moving rats.

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Elife. 2017 Jun 13 ;6. pii : e26179. doi : 10.7554/eLife.26179