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Keeping your balance
Date:7/28/2013

. These "sensory conflicts" are also responsible for the feelings of vertigo and nausea that are associated with motion sickness.

But while the areas of the brain involved in estimating spatial orientation have been identified for some time, until now, no one has been able to either show that distinct neurons signaling "sensory conflicts" existed, nor demonstrate exactly how they work. "We've known for some time that the cerebellum is the part of the brain that takes in sensory information and then causes us to move or react in appropriate ways," says Prof. Cullen. "But what's really exciting is that for the first time we show very clearly how the cerebellum selectively encodes unexpected motion, to then send our body messages that help us maintain our balance. That it is such a very exact neural calculation is exciting and unexpected."

By demonstrating that these "sensory conflict" neurons both exist and function by making choices "on the fly" about which sensory information to respond to, Cullen and her team have made a significant advance in our understanding of how the brain works to keep our bodies in balance as we move about.

The research was done by recording brain activity in macaque monkeys who were engaged in performing specific tasks while at the same time being unexpectedly moved around by flight-simulator style equipment.


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Contact: Cynthia Lee
cynthia.lee@mcgill.ca
514-398-6754
McGill University
Source:Eurekalert

Page: 1 2

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