Electromyographic (EMGp) activity was recorded from occipitoscapularis, semi-spinalis, and splenius neck muscles in five alert squirrel monkeys during 0.25-Hz rotations about horizontal axes oriented at 22.5° intervals, including pitch, roll, and intermediate axes. The animals were oriented in either upright or upside down posture. In the upright posture, all monkeys exhibited compensatory EMG activity with maximal activation during rotations about axes between pitch in the pitch forward direction and contralaterally directed roll. Response timing varied across animals with EMG peaks ranging from near pitch forward head velocity to near pitch forward head position. When the head was upside down, response dynamics and directionality were altered to varying degrees in different monkeys. The greatest change in response to head inversion was seen in the monkey that had response phases closest to head position, the least in the animal with phases closest to head velocity. The monkey with EMG response peaks closest to position phase showed nearly 180° inversion of responses when the head was upside down, suggesting that in this monkey a righting reflex mediated by utricular signals was activated in the upside down posture. The monkey with EMG response peaks closest to velocity phase may have lacked a righting response and exhibited only a canal-mediated compensatory vestibulocervical reflex in both upright and upside down postures. The results suggest that reflex contraction of neck muscles in response to passive head rotation includes an interplay of compensatory and righting responses that varies from animal to animal.
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