Professor Yates’ research focuses on the role of the vestibular system in the maintenance of homeostasis, the function of the vestibular system in spatial cognition, and plasticity within the vestibular system following damage to the inner ear. Vestibular receptors detect linear and angular acceleration imposed on the head, and thus provide signals to the central nervous system (CNS) that indicate head position and the direction and velocity of head movements. By integrating vestibular inputs with signals from receptors in the neck, trunk, and limbs, the central nervous system can differentiate head and whole-body movements and thus produce appropriate compensatory responses. Vestibular effects on respiratory motoneurons, on sympathetic neurons that regulate circulation, and on CNS neurons that mediate spatial cognition are the major concern of the laboratory. We are also interested in the mechanisms responsible for recovery of function following loss of vestibular inputs.
The majority of the current research utilizes electrophysiological and neuroanatomical approaches to characterize the neuronal circuitry that relays vestibular signals to spinal motoneurons, sympathetic preganglionic neurons, and CNS regions that mediate spatial cognition. Furthermore, we are examining the effects of stimulation or lesioning the vestibular system on respiration and circulation, to gain a better understanding of the role of the vestibular system in maintaining homeostasis during movement, changes in posture, and exposure to unusual gravitational environments (such as during space travel). Other experiments are exploring the role of the vestibular system in spatial cognition as well as “sensory substitution” that explains recovery of function following vestibular system lesions. Finally, we are interested in the physiological basis of an aberrant autonomic effect that can result from vestibular stimulation: motion sickness.
Education & Training
Ph.D. University of Florida (1986)
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