We have previously reported that central neurons mediating vestibulo-spinal reflexes and self-motion perception optimally encode natural self-motion (Mitchell et al., 2018). Importantly however, the vestibular nuclei also comprise other neuronal classes that mediate essential functions such as the vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR) and its adaptation. Here we show that heterogeneities in resting discharge variability mediate a trade-off between faithful encoding and optimal coding via temporal whitening. Specifically, neurons displaying lower variability did not whiten naturalistic self-motion but instead faithfully represented the stimulus' detailed time course, while neurons displaying higher variability displayed temporal whitening. Using a well-established model of VOR pathways, we demonstrate that faithful stimulus encoding is necessary to generate the compensatory eye movements found experimentally during naturalistic self-motion. Our findings suggest a novel functional role for variability towards establishing different coding strategies: 1) faithful stimulus encoding for generating the VOR; 2) optimized coding via temporal whitening for other vestibular functions.
Data is available on figshare: 10.6084/m9.figshare.12594803.
- Jérome Carriot
- Kathleen E Cullen
- Maurice J Chacron
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.
Animal experimentation: All experimental protocols were approved by the McGill University Animal Care Committee (#4096) and complied with the guidelines of the Canadian Council on Animal Care.
- Fred Rieke, University of Washington, United States
© 2020, Mackrous et al.
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