King Laboratory

The King Laboratory studies the behavior and physiology of sensory-motor transformations in the vestibular and oculomotor systems. The vestibulo-collic reflex (VCR) stabilizes head position in space when the body moves (e.g., during walking). Vestibulo-ocular reflexes (VORs) stabilize eye position in space during head and body movements. As an example of what one might experience in the absence of these reflexes, imagine the jumpy images seen through a hand-held camera while walking along a busy street. To stabilize head and eye position, vestibular reflexes link diverse sensory inputs from hair cells in the inner ear, rod and cone receptors in the retina, and proprioceptive inflows from muscle to the motor systems that generate coordinated eye and head movements. Recent research in the lab demonstrates that during voluntary head movements, the brain produces anticipatory commands to stabilize the eyes in space. The lab is actively studying how these anticipatory signals (“efference copy”) are integrated with signals in the vestibulo-ocular pathway.

The King Laboratory's current studies range from basic research using animal models, to clinical applications and translational research in the U-M Vestibular Testing Center. For example, we are studying how the brain transforms vestibular inputs arising from accelerations of the head into motor commands to stabilize eye (VOR) and head (VCR) position. Oscillopsia, a common symptom caused by vestibular loss, reduces visual clarity and is very disturbing to patients with the disorder. Vestibular loss may occur with age, as the result of exposure to ototoxic drugs such as aminoglycosides (e.g., gentamicin), chemotherapy drugs such as cisplatin, or even exposure to excessive noise in the environment. In animals, we assess vestibular loss by measuring the VOR or the VCR, head stability during locomotion or sound induced head movements transduced by the vestibular system. 

The King Laboratory is also interested in translational studies of vestibular disorders. The lab’s recent discovery of anticipatory gaze stabilization during voluntary head movements in animals is being extended to humans in collaboration with Dr. Mark Walker at the Cleveland V.A. Hospital. In the University of Michigan Vestibular Testing Center, we use current research to improve or create novel ways to evaluate patients in our clinic.