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Keck Seminar: Calculus, Internal Models and Statistical Inference: Does the Brain Do It All?
Dora Angelaki, Ph.D., Professor & Chair, Department of Neuroscience, Baylor College of Medicine; Professor, Departments of Psychology and Electrical and Computer Engineering, Rice University
date:4:00PM   US Central (GMT −0500)
Friday, February 15, 2013
location:BRC Auditorium, BioScience Research Collaborative Building, Rice University
sponsor:Gulf Coast Consortia

Navigation and spatial orientation are vital functions in our lives. Sensory information arises from the balance (vestibular) organs in the inner ear. However, the brain must correct for a sensory ambiguity inherent in otolith vestibular afferents, as they cannot distinguish inertial accelerations (experienced during navigation) from changes in spatial orientation relative to gravity (Einstein’s equivalence principle). A neural correlate of the brain’s ability to resolve this ambiguity is found in Purkinje cells of the caudal cerebellar vermis. These neurons solve a vector differential equation, which represents an internal model of the physical laws of motion. Whenever a unique solution is not possible without robust and reliable sensory information, perception of our movement through space becomes illusionary, as predicted by Bayesian priors that signal we are stationary in space. Experiments using pharmacological manipulations and multi-barrel electrodes suggest that this transformation likely involves the cerebellar circuitry and its reciprocal connections with the vestibular brainstem.

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