A brainstem integrator for self-location memory and positional homeostasis in zebrafish

En Yang*, Maarten F. Zwart, Ben James, Mikail Rubinov, Ziqiang Wei, Sujatha Narayan, Nikita Vladimirov, Brett D. Mensh, James E. Fitzgerald, Misha B. Ahrens*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To track and control self-location, animals integrate their movements through space. Representations of self-location are observed in the mammalian hippocampal formation, but it is unknown if positional representations exist in more ancient brain regions, how they arise from integrated self-motion, and by what pathways they control locomotion. Here, in a head-fixed, fictive-swimming, virtual-reality preparation, we exposed larval zebrafish to a variety of involuntary displacements. They tracked these displacements and, many seconds later, moved toward their earlier location through corrective swimming (“positional homeostasis”). Whole-brain functional imaging revealed a network in the medulla that stores a memory of location and induces an error signal in the inferior olive to drive future corrective swimming. Optogenetically manipulating medullary integrator cells evoked displacement-memory behavior. Ablating them, or downstream olivary neurons, abolished displacement corrections. These results reveal a multiregional hindbrain circuit in vertebrates that integrates self-motion and stores self-location to control locomotor behavior.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere20
Pages (from-to)5011-5027
Issue number26
Publication statusPublished - 22 Dec 2022


  • Neuroscience
  • Memory
  • Neural circuits
  • Motor control
  • Brainstem
  • Navigation
  • Path integration
  • Hippocampus
  • Zebrafish
  • Inferior olive
  • Cerebellum


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