Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Our primitive reflexes may be more sophisticated than they appear, study shows

Date:
February 14, 2013
Source:
Imperial College London
Summary:
Supposedly 'primitive' reflexes may involve more sophisticated brain function than previously thought, according to researchers.

Supposedly 'primitive' reflexes may involve more sophisticated brain function than previously thought, according to researchers at Imperial College London.

The Vestibular-Ocular Reflex (or VOR), common to most vertebrates, is what allows us to keep our eyes focused on a fixed point even while our heads are moving. Up until now, scientists had assumed this reflex was controlled by the lower brainstem, which regulates eating, sleeping and other low-level tasks.

Researchers at Imperial's Division of Brain Sciences conducted tests to examine this reflex in left- and right-handed subjects, revealing that handedness plays a key role in the way it operates. This suggests that higher-level functions in the cortex, which govern handedness, are involved in the control of primitive reflexes such as the VOR.

The research, published in The Journal of Neuroscience, involved seating volunteers in a motorised chair which was then spun around at a speed of one revolution every four seconds. This allowed the experimenters to study the VOR by measuring the time it took for the eyes to adjust to the spinning motion. The subjects were then presented with what are known as bistable visual phenomena, optical illusions which appear to flip between two images. Famous examples include the duck which resembles a rabbit, and the cube outline which appears to come out of and go into the page simultaneously.

Scientists already know that this bistable perception is controlled by a part of the cortex which governs more complex, decision-based tasks. Because of this, researcher Qadeer Arshad and his colleagues did not expect to find any link between the two processes.

They were surprised to find that processing bistable phenomena disrupted people's ability to stabilise their gaze, following rightward rotation in right handers and leftward rotation in left handers. Arshad said "This is the first time that anything of this kind has been shown. Up until now, the Vestibular-Ocular Reflex was considered a low-level reflex, not even approaching higher-order brain function. Now it seems that this primitive reflex was specialised into the cortex, the part of the brain which governs our sense of direction."

This study could help scientists understand why some people become dizzy through experiencing purely visual stimuli, such as flickering lights or busy supermarket aisles. Professor Adolfo Bronstein, a co-author on the paper, said "Most causes of dizziness start with an inner ear -- or vestibular -- disorder but this initial phase tends to settle quite rapidly. In some patients, however, dizziness becomes a problematic long term problem and their dizziness becomes visually induced. The experimental set-up we used would be ideally suited to help us understand how visual stimuli could lead to long-term dizziness. In fact, we have already carried out research at Imperial around using complex visual stimuli to treat patients with long-term dizziness"


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Imperial College London. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Q. Arshad, Y. Nigmatullina, A. M. Bronstein. Handedness-Related Cortical Modulation of the Vestibular-Ocular Reflex. Journal of Neuroscience, 2013; 33 (7): 3221 DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2054-12.2013

Cite This Page:

Imperial College London. "Our primitive reflexes may be more sophisticated than they appear, study shows." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 February 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130214075603.htm>.
Imperial College London. (2013, February 14). Our primitive reflexes may be more sophisticated than they appear, study shows. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130214075603.htm
Imperial College London. "Our primitive reflexes may be more sophisticated than they appear, study shows." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130214075603.htm (accessed August 22, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Friday, August 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Lost Brain Cells To Blame For Sleep Problems Among Seniors

Lost Brain Cells To Blame For Sleep Problems Among Seniors

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) According to a new study, elderly people might have trouble sleeping because of the loss of a certain group of neurons in the brain. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Do More Wedding Guests Make A Happier Marriage?

Do More Wedding Guests Make A Happier Marriage?

Newsy (Aug. 20, 2014) A new study found couples who had at least 150 guests at their weddings were more likely to report being happy in their marriages. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Charter Schools Alter Post-Katrina Landscape

Charter Schools Alter Post-Katrina Landscape

AP (Aug. 20, 2014) Nine years after Hurricane Katrina, charter schools are the new reality of public education in New Orleans. The state of Louisiana took over most of the city's public schools after the killer storm in 2005. (Aug. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researcher Testing on-Field Concussion Scanners

Researcher Testing on-Field Concussion Scanners

AP (Aug. 19, 2014) Four Texas high school football programs are trying out an experimental system designed to diagnose concussions on the field. The technology is in response to growing concern over head trauma in America's most watched sport. (Aug. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins