The vestibular system comprises the semicircular canals, which detect rotational movements of the head in three-dimensional space, and the otolith organs, which code translational acceleration, including the gravitational vertical. Together these signals provide information about the position and movement of the head that are relevant to a wide variety of autonomic, cognitive and affective functions within the human brain.
Most textbooks consider the vestibular system as an organ specialized for balance, orientation and control of eye movements. However, vestibular inputs are “always on” and turn out to be involved in almost all our interactions with the external world.
Research in the VeME Lab investigates a wide range of issues relating to the vestibular system and its effects on perception and cognition, using different techniques (Natural and Artificial Vestibular Stimulations, Psychophysics, EEG and fMRI).
Here a few of the lines of research ongoing in the lab.
Vestibular Multisensory Interaction
Uniquely among the sensory modalities, vestibular inputs do not project to any unimodal cortex. Multimodal convergence has been described in almost all vestibular relays, including the vestibular nuclei, the thalamus and several areas in the cerebral cortex. Such multiply-connected nature of vestibular cortical anatomy suggests that vestibular signals might participate in multimodal interactions with several somatic signals (vision, somatosensation, proprioception). Research in the VeME Lab investigates how vestibular-multisensory interactions build up a coherent bodily self.
Our body is the object we know best. Current research has accumulated a large body of evidence showing that a coherent body representation is generated by the successful integration of multimodal sensory signals. Strong emphasis has been traditionally put on the two classical signals which tell us about the body: vision and touch. Research in the VeME Lab investigates the role played by the vestibular system, in the perception and representation of the body.
Our body is “always there” (cit. James, 1890). Similarly, gravity is always there: gravity is the only always-on perceptual signal. Thus, it might not be surprising that our perception of both exteroceptive and interoceptive stimuli is influenced by gravity. Research in the VeME Lab investigates how gravity influences the perception of our body.