Multisensory signaling shapes vestibulo-motor circuit specificity
The ability to continuously adjust posture and balance is necessary for reliable motor behavior. Vestibular and proprioceptive systems influence postural adjustments during movement by signaling functionally complementary sensory information. Using viral tracing and mouse genetics, we reveal two patterns of synaptic specificity between brainstem vestibular neurons and spinal motor neurons, established through distinct mechanisms. First, vestibular input targets preferentially extensor over flexor motor pools, a pattern established by developmental refinement in part controlled by vestibular signaling. Second, vestibular input targets slow-twitch over fast motor neuron subtypes within extensor pools, while proprioceptors exhibit inversely correlated connectivity profiles. Genetic manipulations affecting the functionality of proprioceptive feedback circuits lead to adjustments in vestibular input to motor neuron subtypes counterbalancing the imposed changes, without changing the sparse vestibular input to flexor pools. Thus, two sensory signaling systems interact to establish complementary synaptic input patterns to the final site of motor output processing.