Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 3 hours / session

Course Description

This course introduces sensory systems, and multi-sensory fusion using the vestibular and spatial orientation systems as a model. Topics range from end organ dynamics to neural responses, to sensory integration, to behavior, and adaptation, with particular application to balance, spatial disorientation, posture and locomotion under both terrestrial and space conditions. Depending upon the background and interests of the students, advanced term project topics may include spatial disorientation, vestibular and spatial orientation modeling, flight simulator cueing system design, astronaut adaptation, artificial gravity, motion sickness, navigation, vestibular-cardiovascular responses, vestibular prostheses, or other relevant topics of interest.

Listeners may attend, provided that they read the papers, assist in presentations, and participate in discussions.

See course notes for teachers

Class Format

Students typically discuss two papers each week, followed by a special topic presentation by faculty:

  • 45 minute paper #1 presentation
  • 15 minute discussion
  • 45 minute paper #2 presentation
  • 15 minute discussion
  • 10 minute break
  • 40 minute presentation/discussion by faculty on specialty topic
  • 5 minute introduction to next topic


1 Introduction and organization, review of peripheral physiology Intro to vestibular test methods, JC paper Oman Organize, make presentation assignments, discuss term paper requirements
2 SCC afferent response dynamics Fluid and cupula mechanics, SCC allometry, otoscope and caloric demo Oman  
3 Otolith afferent response; discharge variations BPPV, aerobatic wobblies Oman  
4 Canal- otolith interaction, velocity storage, and modeling Canal otolith interaction and observer model demo Merfeld  
5 Efferents   Cullen Term paper topic proposals and preliminary bibliographies due
6 Noise/thresholds Thresholds as a vestibular diagnostic Merfeld Proposals returned, faculty term paper advisors assigned
7 Eye movement control system Eye movement measurement methods Young  
8 Active- passive responses and early processing of brainstem signals   Cullen  
9 Cerebellum and adaptation   Cullen

Complete bibliographies due

Reading complete start writing

10 Motion sickness Space sickness incidence, prediction, prevention; pharmacology; placebos; MDD Oman  
11 Individual term paper presentations AG and adaptation to Coriolis Young First draft of term papers and presentations due
12 Vestibulo spinal pathways, locomotion   Young  
13 Place and direction and path integration; limbic head direction, place and grid cells VRIs and inversion illusions in 0-G, limbic frame hypothesis, Taube parabolic HD and Knierim neurolab PC experiments; Barker rotunda direction vertigo demo Oman Faculty reviewers provide comments/suggestions
14 Space and aviation applications MVL centrifuge and prism goggles demo Young Final versions of term papers due


Participation – contributions to discussion 33%
Presentations 34%
Term project proposal and bibliography 3%
Term project presentation 5%
Term project final paper 25%