Spatial coordination by descending vestibular signals - 1. Reflex excitation of neck muscles in alert and decerebrate cats

J. M. Banovetz*, B. W. Peterson, J. F. Baker

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Electromyographic activity of dorsal neck muscles and neck torques was recorded to study vestibulocollic, cervicocollic, and combined reflexes in alert and decerebrate cats during rotations of the whole body, the body except for the head, and the head but not the rest of the body. Cats were rotated about many axes that lay in the frontal, sagittal, and horizontal planes using sinusoidal 0.25-Hz waveforms or sum-of-sinusoid waveforms. Robust electromyographic responses were recorded from six muscles, with response directionality that in most cases did not show strong dependence on the reflex tested or on other factors including exact neck angle, stimulus amplitude from 5° to 60°, and intact versus decerebrate state. Based on the strength of responses to rotations about all the tested axes, neck muscles could be characterized by maximal activation direction vectors representing the axis and direction of rotation in threedimensional space that was most excitatory during reflex responses. Responses to rotations about axes that lay in a coordinate plane were predicted by a cosine function of the angle between the axis under test and the maximally excitatory axis in the plane. All muscles were excited by the nose down phase of pitch rotation and by yaw and roll away from the side on which the muscle lay. Biventer cervicis was best activated by rotations with axes near nose-down pitch, and its axis of maximal activation also had small, approximately equal components of yaw and roll toward the contralateral side. Complexus was best excited by rotations with axes nearest roll, but with large components along all three axes. Occipitoscapularis was best excited by rotations about axes near pitch, but with a moderately large contralateral yaw component and a smaller but significant contralateral roll component. Splenius was best excited by rotations with a large component of contralateral yaw, considerable nose-down pitch, and a smaller component of contralateral roll. Rectus major was best excited by rotations near nose-down pitch, but with a substantial contralateral yaw component and smaller contralateral roll component. Obliquus inferior was best excited by rotations with a large component of contralateral yaw, but with considerable contralateral roll and nose-down pitch components. All muscles responded as though they received convergent input from all three semicircular canals. Vestibulocollic and combined reflex responses in alert cats and vestibulocollic, cervicocollic, and combined responses in decerebrate cats appeared to have the same directionality, as evidenced by insignificant shifts in maximal activation vectors. Cervicocollic responses in alert cats were inconsistent and often absent, but appeared upon decerebration, suggesting that higher centers suppress the cervicocollic reflex in intact animals. Decerebration and partial cerebellectomy had no significant effect on maximal activation directions, although electromyographic response magnitudes increased after each. The results suggest that common circuits or strategies are used by neck stretch and vestibular-neck reflexes. The reflex excitation directions do not match the mechanical actions of the neck muscles but agree fairly well with previously published predictions of a mathematical model of neck motor control.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)345-362
Number of pages18
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 1990


  • Cat
  • Cervicocollic reflex
  • Directionality
  • Vestibulocollic reflex
  • Vestibulospinal reflexes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Spatial coordination by descending vestibular signals - 1. Reflex excitation of neck muscles in alert and decerebrate cats'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this