Vestibular nuclei and cerebellum put visual gravitational motion in context

William L. Miller, Vincenzo Maffei, Gianfranco Bosco, Marco Iosa, Myrka Zago, Emiliano Macaluso, Francesco Lacquaniti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Animal survival in the forest, and human success on the sports field, often depend on the ability to seize a target on the fly. All bodies fall at the same rate in the gravitational field, but the corresponding retinal motion varies with apparent viewing distance. How then does the brain predict time-to-collision under gravity? A perspective context from natural or pictorial settings might afford accurate predictions of gravity's effects via the recovery of an environmental reference from the scene structure. We report that embedding motion in a pictorial scene facilitates interception of gravitational acceleration over unnatural acceleration, whereas a blank scene eliminates such bias. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) revealed blood-oxygen-level- dependent correlates of these visual context effects on gravitational motion processing in the vestibular nuclei and posterior cerebellar vermis. Our results suggest an early stage of integration of high-level visual analysis with gravity-related motion information, which may represent the substrate for perceptual constancy of ubiquitous gravitational motion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1969-1982
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Neurophysiology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Neuroscience(all)


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