Saccades normally place the eye on target with one smooth movement. In late-onset Tay—Sachs (LOTS), intrasaccadic transient decelerations occur that may result from (1) premature omnipause neuron (OPN) re-activation due to malfunction of the latch circuit that inhibits OPNs for the duration of the saccade or (2) premature inhibitory burst neuron (IBN) activation due to fastigial nucleus (FN) dysregulation by the dorsal cerebellar vermis. Neuroanatomic analysis of a LOTS brain was performed. Purkinje cells were absent and gliosis of the granular cell layer was present in the dorsal cerebellar vermis. Deep cerebellar nuclei contained large inclusions. IBNs were present with small inclusions. The sample did not contain the complete OPN region; however, neurons in the OPN region contained massive inclusions. Pathologic findings suggest that premature OPN re-activation and/or inappropriate firing of IBNs may be responsible for interrupted saccades in LOTS. Cerebellar clinical dysfunction, lack of saccadic slowing, and significant loss of cerebellar cells suggest that the second cause is more likely.
fastigial nucleus; omnipause neurons; burst neurons; latch circuit; brainstem
Saccadic eye movements rapidly orient the line of sight towards the object of interest. Pre-motor burst neurons (BNs) controlling saccades receive excitation from superior colliculus and cerebellum, but inhibition by omnipause neurons (OPNs) prevents saccades. When the OPNs pause, BNs begin to fire. It has been presumed that part of the BN burst comes from post-inhibitory rebound (PIR). We hypothesized that in the absence of prior inhibition from OPNs there would be no PIR, and thus the increase in initial firing rate of BNs would be reduced. Consequently, saccade acceleration would be reduced. We measured eye movements and showed that sustained eye closure, which inhibits the activity of OPNs and thus hypothetically should weaken PIR, reduced the peak velocity, acceleration, and deceleration of saccades in healthy human subjects. Saccades under closed eyelids also had irregular trajectories; the frequency of the oscillations underlying this irregularity was similar to that of high-frequency ocular flutter (back-to-back saccades) often seen in normal subjects during attempted fixation at straight ahead while eyes are closed. Saccades and quick phases of nystagmus are generated by the same pre-motor neurons, and we found that the quick-phase velocity of nystagmus was also reduced by lid closure. These changes were not due to a mechanical hindrance to the eyes, because lid closure did not affect the peak velocities or accelerations of the eyes in the “slow-phase” response to rapid head movements of comparable speeds to those of saccades. These results indicate a role for OPNs in generating the abrupt onset and high velocities of saccades. We hypothesize that the mechanism involved is PIR in pre-motor burst neurons.
Omnipause neurons; Burst neurons; Oscillations; Ballistic movement; Post-inhibitory rebound
The anatomy and neurophysiology of the saccadic eye movement system have been well studied, but the roles of certain key neurons in this system are not fully appreciated. Important clues about the functional interactions in the saccadic system can be gleaned from the histochemistry of different saccadic neurons. The most prominent inhibitory neurons in the circuit are the omnidirectional pause neurons (OPN), which inhibit the premotor burst neurons that drive the eye. Most inhibitory neurons in the brain transmit γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA), but OPN transmit glycine (Gly). It is interesting to ask whether the saccadic system would work any differently if OPN were GABA-ergic. Gly and GABA receptors both provide a channel for a hyperpolarizing Cl- current that inhibits its target neuron. Depolarizing currents that excite the neurons come through several channels, including the NMDA receptor (NMDAR). The NMDAR is unique among receptors in that it has active sites for two different neurotransmitters, glutamate (Glu) and Gly. Gly is a co-agonist that acts to amplify the current produced by Glu. We have proposed a model of the saccadic brain stem circuitry that exploits this dual role of Gly to produce both inhibition of the saccadic circuit during fixation, and to increase its responsiveness, or gain, during movements. This suggests that OPNs act more as a regulator of the saccadic circuit’s gain, rather than as a gate for allowing saccades. We propose a new hypothesis: the OPNs play a general role as a modulator of arousal in orienting subsystems, such as saccades, pursuit, head movements, etc.
glycine; burst neurons; brainstem; saccades
Current knowledge of saccade-blink interactions suggests that blinks have paradoxical effects on saccade generation. Blinks suppress saccade generation by attenuating the oculomotor drive command in structures like the superior colliculus (SC), but they also disinhibit the saccadic system by removing the potent inhibition of pontine omnipause neurons (OPNs). To better characterize these effects, we evoked the trigeminal blink reflex by delivering an air puff to one eye as saccades were evoked by sub-optimal stimulation of the SC. For every stimulation site, the peak and average velocities of stimulation with blink movements (SwBMs) were lower than stimulation-only saccades (SoMs), supporting the notion that the oculomotor drive is weakened in the presence of a blink. In contrast, the duration of the SwBMs was longer, consistent with the hypothesis that the blink-induced inhibition of the OPNs could prolong the window of time available for oculomotor commands to drive an eye movement. The amplitude of the SwBM could also be larger than the SoM amplitude obtained from the same site, particularly for cases in which blink-associated eye movements exhibited the slowest kinematics. The results are interpreted in terms of neural signatures of saccade-blink interactions.
The superior colliculus (SC) provides signals for the generation of
saccades via a direct pathway to the brain stem burst generator (BG). In
addition, it sends saccade-related activity to the BG indirectly through the
cerebellum via a relay in the nucleus reticularis tegmenti pontis (NRTP).
Lesions of the oculomotor vermis, lobules VIc and VII, and inactivation of the
caudal fastigial nucleus, the cerebellar output nucleus to which it projects,
produce saccade dysmetria but have little effect on saccade peak velocity and
duration. We expected similar deficits from inactivation of the NRTP. Instead,
injections as small as 80 nl into the NRTP first slowed ipsiversive saccades and
then gradually reduced their amplitudes. Postinjection saccades had slower peak
velocities and longer durations than preinjection saccades with similar
amplitudes. Contraversive saccades retained their normal kinematics. When the
gains of ipsiversive saccades to 10° target steps had fallen to
their lowest values (0.28 ± 0.19; mean ± SD;
n = 10 experiments), the gains of contraversive
saccades to 10° target steps had decreased very little (0.82
± 0.11). Eventually, ipsiversive saccades did not exceed
5°, even to 20° target steps. Moreover, these small
remaining saccades apparently were made with considerable difficulty because
their latencies increased substantially. When ipsiversive saccade gain was at
its lowest, the gain and kinematics of vertical saccades to 10°
target steps exhibited inconsistent changes. We argue that our injections did
not compromise the direct SC pathway. Therefore these data suggest that the
cerebellar saccade pathway does not simply modulate BG activity but is required
for horizontal saccades to occur at all.
In late-onset Tay-Sachs disease (LOTS), saccades are interrupted by one or more transient decelerations. Some saccades reaccelerate and continue on before eye velocity reaches zero, even in darkness. Intervals between successive decelerations are not regularly spaced. Peak decelerations of horizontal and vertical components of oblique saccades in LOTS is more synchronous than those in control subjects. We hypothesize that these decelerations are caused by dysregulation of the fastigial nuclei (FN) of the cerebellum, which fire brain stem inhibitory burst neurons (IBNs).
fastigial nucleus; omnipause neurons; burst neurons; latch circuit
Ocular flutter is a rare abnormal eye movement consisting of irregular bursts of to‐and‐fro bidirectional horizontal saccades and is frequently encountered in association with cerebellar symptoms. We present a patient with a probable post‐infectious ocular flutter that exhibited characteristics not previously reported in the literature. Bursts of ocular flutter consisted almost exclusively of initial rightward saccades and were clearly influenced by orbital eye position and the presence of a visual stimulus. The most recent models of saccadic oscillations do not provide an explanation for such atypical features, especially for the systematic directional bias. Based on existing experimental data, we propose that dysfunction of vermal pause neurons in an unstable saccade network could account for such atypical characteristics.
Attenuation of visual activity in the superficial layers (SL) of the superior colliculus during saccades may contribute to reducing perceptual blur during saccades and also may help prevent subsequent unwanted saccades. GABAergic neurons in the intermediate, premotor, layer (SGI) send an inhibitory input to SL. This pathway provided the basis for a model proposing that the SGI premotor cells that project to brainstem gaze centers and discharge before saccades also activate neighboring GABAergic neurons that suppress saccade induced visual activity in SL.
The in vitro method allowed us to test this model. We made whole-cell patch clamp recordings in collicular slices from either rats or GAD67-GFP knock-in mice, in which GABAergic neurons could be identified by their expression of green fluorescence protein (GFP). Antidromic electrical stimulation of SGI premotor cells was produced by applying pulse currents where their axons congregate after exiting the superior colliculus. The stimulation evoked monosynaptic excitatory postsynaptic currents (EPSCs) in SGI GABAergic neurons that project to SL, as would be predicted if these neurons receive excitatory input from the premotor cells. Second, inhibitory postsynaptic currents (IPSCs) were evoked in SL neurons, some of which project to the visual thalamus. These IPSCs were polysynaptically mediated by the GABAergic neurons that were excited by the antidromically activated SGI neurons. These results support the hypothesis that collaterals of premotor neuron axons excite GABAergic neurons that inhibit SL visuosensory cells.
visuomotor integration; inhibitory feedback; in vitro slices; mice; rats
Saccadic oscillations threaten clear vision by causing image motion on the retina. They are either purely horizontal (ocular flutter) or multidimensional (opsoclonus). We propose that ion channel dysfunction in the burst cell membrane is the underlying abnormality. We have tested this hypothesis by simulating a neuromimetic computational model of the burst neurons. This biologically realistic model mimics the physiologic properties and anatomic connections in the brainstem saccade generator. A rebound firing after sustained inhibition, called post-inhibitory rebound (PIR), and reciprocal inhibition between premotor saccadic burst neurons are the key features of this conceptual scheme. PIR and reciprocal inhibition make the circuits that generate the saccadic burst inherently unstable and can lead to oscillations unless stabilized by external inhibition. Our simulations suggest that alterations in membrane properties that lead to an increase in PIR, a reduction in external glycinergic inhibition, or both can cause saccadic oscillations.
Many flying insects exhibit an active flight and gaze strategy: purely translational flight segments alternate with quick turns called saccades. To generate such a saccadic flight pattern, the animals decide the timing, direction, and amplitude of the next saccade during the previous translatory intersaccadic interval. The information underlying these decisions is assumed to be extracted from the retinal image displacements (optic flow), which scale with the distance to objects during the intersaccadic flight phases. In an earlier study we proposed a saccade-generation mechanism based on the responses of large-field motion-sensitive neurons. In closed-loop simulations we achieved collision avoidance behavior in a limited set of environments but observed collisions in others. Here we show by open-loop simulations that the cause of this observation is the known texture-dependence of elementary motion detection in flies, reflected also in the responses of large-field neurons as used in our model. We verified by electrophysiological experiments that this result is not an artifact of the sensory model. Already subtle changes in the texture may lead to qualitative differences in the responses of both our model cells and their biological counterparts in the fly's brain. Nonetheless, free flight behavior of blowflies is only moderately affected by such texture changes. This divergent texture dependence of motion-sensitive neurons and behavioral performance suggests either mechanisms that compensate for the texture dependence of the visual motion pathway at the level of the circuits generating the saccadic turn decisions or the involvement of a hypothetical parallel pathway in saccadic control that provides the information for collision avoidance independent of the textural properties of the environment.
vision; motion detection; texture; free flight; behavior; model; simulations; insects
The cerebellum plays an important role in programming accurate saccades. Cerebellar lesions affecting the ocular motor region of the fastigial nucleus (FOR) cause saccadic hypermetria; however, if a second target is presented before a saccade can be initiated (double-step paradigm), saccade hypermetria may be decreased. We tested the hypothesis that the cerebellum, especially FOR, plays a pivotal role in programming sequences of saccades. We studied patients with saccadic hypermetria due either to genetic cerebellar ataxia or surgical lesions affecting FOR and confirmed that the gain of initial saccades made to double-step stimuli was reduced compared with the gain of saccades to single target jumps. Based on measurements of the intersaccadic interval, we found that the ability to perform parallel processing of saccades was reduced or absent in all of our patients with cerebellar disease. Our results support the crucial role of the cerebellum, especially FOR, in programming sequences of saccades.
fastigial nucleus; double-step; saccade; latency; spinocerebellar ataxia; hypermetria; parallel processing
Recently, we proposed an ensemble-coding scheme of the midbrain superior colliculus (SC) in which, during a saccade, each spike emitted by each recruited SC neuron contributes a fixed minivector to the gaze-control motor output. The size and direction of this ‘spike vector’ depend exclusively on a cell’s location within the SC motor map (Goossens and Van Opstal, in J Neurophysiol 95: 2326–2341, 2006). According to this simple scheme, the planned saccade trajectory results from instantaneous linear summation of all spike vectors across the motor map. In our simulations with this model, the brainstem saccade generator was simplified by a linear feedback system, rendering the total model (which has only three free parameters) essentially linear. Interestingly, when this scheme was applied to actually recorded spike trains from 139 saccade-related SC neurons, measured during thousands of eye movements to single visual targets, straight saccades resulted with the correct velocity profiles and nonlinear kinematic relations (‘main sequence properties– and ‘component stretching’) Hence, we concluded that the kinematic nonlinearity of saccades resides in the spatial-temporal distribution of SC activity, rather than in the brainstem burst generator. The latter is generally assumed in models of the saccadic system. Here we analyze how this behaviour might emerge from this simple scheme. In addition, we will show new experimental evidence in support of the proposed mechanism.
Saccades; Spatial accuracy; Population coding; Nonlinearity; Main sequence; Monkey
Rapid shifts of the point of visual fixation between equidistant targets require equal-sized saccades of each eye. The brainstem medial longitudinal fasciculus (MLF) plays a cardinal role in ensuring that horizontal saccades between equidistant targets are tightly yoked. Lesions of the MLF—internuclear ophthalmoparesis (INO)—cause horizontal saccades to become disjunctive: adducting saccades are slow, small, or absent. However, in INO, convergence movements may remain intact. We studied horizontal gaze shifts between equidistant targets and between far and near targets aligned on the visual axis of one eye (Müller test paradigm) in five cases of INO and five control subjects. We estimated the saccadic component of each movement by measuring peak velocity and peak acceleration. We tested whether the ratio of the saccadic component of the adducting/abducting eyes stayed constant or changed for the two types of saccades. For saccades made by control subjects between equidistant targets, the group mean ratio (±SD) of adducting/abducting peak velocity was 0.96 ± 0.07 and adducting/abducting peak acceleration was 0.94 ± 0.09. Corresponding ratios for INO cases were 0.45 ± 0.10 for peak velocity and 0.27 ± 0.11 for peak acceleration, reflecting reduced saccadic pulses for adduction. For control subjects, during the Müller paradigm, the adducting/abducting ratio was 1.25 ± 0.14 for peak velocity and 1.03 ± 0.12 for peak acceleration. Corresponding ratios for INO cases were 0.82 ± 0.18 for peak velocity and 0.48 ± 0.13 for peak acceleration. When adducting/abducting ratios during Müller versus equidistant targets paradigms were compared, INO cases showed larger relative increases for both peak velocity and peak acceleration compared with control subjects. Comparison of similar-sized movements during the two test paradigms indicated that whereas INO patients could decrease peak velocity of their abducting eye during the Müller paradigm, they were unable to modulate adducting velocity in response to viewing conditions. However, the initial component of each eye’s movement was similar in both cases, possibly reflecting activation of saccadic burst neurons. These findings support the hypothesis that horizontal saccades are governed by disjunctive signals, preceded by an initial, high-acceleration conjugate transient and followed by a slower vergence component.
Eye movements; Saccades; Vergence; Medial longitudinal fasciculus; Hering’s law; Multiple sclerosis; Internuclear ophthalmoplegia
It is not sure if persons with dyslexia have ocular motor deficits in addition to their deficits in rapid visual information processing. A 15-year-old boy afflicted by severe dyslexia was submitted to saccadic eye movement recording. Neurological and ophthalmic examinations were normal apart from the presence of an esophoria for near and slightly longer latencies of pattern visual evoked potentials. Subclinical saccadic alterations were present, which could be at the basis of the reading pathology: (1) low velocities (and larger durations) of the adducting saccades of the left eye with undershooting and long-lasting postsaccadic onward drift, typical of the internuclear ophthalmoplegia; (2) saccades interrupted in mid-flight and fixation instability, which are present in cases of brainstem premotor disturbances.
Saccades are so called ballistic movements which are executed without online visual feedback. After each saccade the saccadic motor plan is modified in response to post-saccadic feedback with the mechanism of saccadic adaptation. The post-saccadic feedback is provided by the retinal position of the target after the saccade. If the target moves after the saccade, gaze may follow the moving target. In that case, the eyes are controlled by the pursuit system, a system that controls smooth eye movements. Although these two systems have in the past been considered as mostly independent, recent lines of research point towards many interactions between them. We were interested in the question if saccade amplitude adaptation is induced when the target moves smoothly after the saccade. Prior studies of saccadic adaptation have considered intra-saccadic target steps as learning signals. In the present study, the intra-saccadic target step of the McLaughlin paradigm of saccadic adaptation was replaced by target movement, and a post-saccadic pursuit of the target. We found that saccadic adaptation occurred in this situation, a further indication of an interaction of the saccadic system and the pursuit system with the aim of optimized eye movements.
The superior colliculus (SC) of the monkey has been shown to be involved in not only initiation of saccades but in the selection of the target to which the saccade can be directed. The present experiments examine whether SC neuronal activity related to target selection is also related to saccade generation. In an asynchronous target task, the monkey was required to make a saccade to the first of two spots of light to appear. Using choice probability analysis over multiple trials, we determined the earliest time at which neurons in the SC intermediate layers indicated target selection. We then determined how closely the neuronal selection was correlated to the saccade onset by using our asynchronous reaction time task, which allowed the monkey to make a saccade to the target as soon as the selection had been made. We found that the selection became evident at widely differing times for different neurons. Some neurons indicated target selection just before the saccade (close to the pre-saccadic burst of activity), others did so at the time of the visual response, and some showed an increase in their activity even before the target appeared. A fraction of this pre-stimulus bias resulted from a priming effect of the previous trial; a saccade to the target in the movement field on the previous trial produced both a higher level of neuronal activity and a higher probability for a saccade to that target on the current trial. We found that most of the neurons (76%) showed a correlation between selection time and reaction time. Furthermore, within this 76% of neurons, many indicated a selection very early during the visual response. There was no evidence of a sequence from target selection first and saccade selection later, but rather that target selection and saccade initiation are intertwined and are probably inseparable.
Target Selection; Superior Colliculus; Saccades; Priming
A stimulus that is flashed around the time of a saccade tends to be mislocalized in the direction of the saccade target. Our question is whether the mislocalization is related to the position of the saccade target within the image or to the gaze position at the end of the saccade. We separated the two with a visual illusion that influences the perceived distance to the target of the saccade and thus saccade endpoint without affecting the perceived position of the saccade target within the image. We asked participants to make horizontal saccades from the left to the right end of the shaft of a Müller-Lyer figure. Around the time of the saccade, we flashed a bar at one of five possible positions and asked participants to indicate its location by touching the screen. As expected, participants made shorter saccades along the fins-in (<–>) configuration than along the fins-out (>–<) configuration of the figure. The illusion also influenced the mislocalization pattern during saccades, with flashes presented with the fins-out configuration being perceived beyond flashes presented with the fins-in configuration. The difference between the patterns of mislocalization for bars flashed during the saccade for the two configurations corresponded quantitatively with a prediction based on compression towards the saccade endpoint considering the magnitude of the effect of the illusion on saccade amplitude. We conclude that mislocalization is related to the eye position at the end of the saccade, rather than to the position of the saccade target within the image.
Conductance-based models of reciprocally inhibiting burst neurons suggest that intrinsic membrane properties and postinhibitory rebound (PIR) determine the amplitude and frequency of saccadic oscillations. Reduction of the low-threshold calcium currents (IT) in the model decreased the amplitude but increased the frequency of the simulated oscillations. Combined reduction of hyperpolarization-activated cation current (Ih) and IT in the model abolished the simulated oscillations. We measured the effects of a selective blocker of IT (ethosuximide) in healthy subjects on the amplitude and frequency of saccadic oscillations evoked by eye closure and of a nonselective blocker of Ih and IT (propronolol) in a patient with microsaccadic oscillation and limb tremor syndrome (mSOLT). Ethosuximide significantly reduced the amplitude but increased the frequency of the saccadic oscillations during eye closure in healthy subjects. Propranolol abolished saccadic oscillations in the mSOLT patient. These results support the hypothetical role of postinhibitory rebound, Ih, and IT, in generation of saccadic oscillations and determining their kinematic properties.
burst neurons; hyperpolarization-activated cation current; low-threshold calcium current; reciprocal innervations
When goal-directed movements are inaccurate, two responses are generated by the brain: a fast motor correction toward the target and an adaptive motor recalibration developing progressively across subsequent trials. For the saccadic system, there is a clear dissociation between the fast motor correction (corrective saccade production) and the adaptive motor recalibration (primary saccade modification). Error signals used to trigger corrective saccades and to induce adaptation are based on post-saccadic visual feedback. The goal of this study was to determine if similar or different error signals are involved in saccadic adaptation and in corrective saccade generation. Saccadic accuracy was experimentally altered by systematically displacing the visual target during motor execution. Post-saccadic error signals were studied by manipulating visual information in two ways. First, the duration of the displaced target after primary saccade termination was set at 15, 50, 100 or 800 ms in different adaptation sessions. Second, in some sessions, the displaced target was followed by a visual mask that interfered with visual processing. Because they rely on different mechanisms, the adaptation of reactive saccades and the adaptation of voluntary saccades were both evaluated. We found that saccadic adaptation and corrective saccade production were both affected by the manipulations of post-saccadic visual information, but in different ways. This first finding suggests that different types of error signal processing are involved in the induction of these two motor corrections. Interestingly, voluntary saccades required a longer duration of post-saccadic target presentation to reach the same amount of adaptation as reactive saccades. Finally, the visual mask interfered with the production of corrective saccades only during the voluntary saccades adaptation task. These last observations suggest that post-saccadic perception depends on the previously performed action and that the differences between saccade categories of motor correction and adaptation occur at an early level of visual processing.
Saccade accuracy is maintained by adaptive mechanisms that continually modify saccade amplitude to reduce dysmetria. Previous studies suggest that adaptation occurs upstream of the caudal fastigial nucleus (CFN), the output of the oculomotor cerebellar vermis but downstream from the superior colliculus (SC). The nucleus reticularis tegmenti pontis (NRTP) is a major source of afferents to both the oculomotor vermis and the CFN and in turn receives direct input from the SC. Here we examine the activity of NRTP neurons in four rhesus monkeys during behaviorally induced changes in saccade amplitude to assess whether their discharge might reveal adaptation mechanisms that mediate changes in saccade amplitude. During amplitude decrease adaptation (average, 22%), the gradual reduction of saccade amplitude was accompanied by an increase in the number of spikes in the burst of 19/34 neurons (56%) and no change for 15 neurons (44%). For the neurons that increased their discharge, the additional spikes were added at the beginning of the saccadic burst and adaptation also delayed the peak-firing rate in some neurons. Moreover, after amplitude reduction, the movement fields changed shape in all 15 open field neurons tested. Our data show that saccadic amplitude reduction affects the number of spikes in the burst of more than half of NRTP neurons tested, primarily by increasing burst duration not frequency. Therefore adaptive changes in saccade amplitude are reflected already at a major input to the oculomotor cerebellum.
The site of lesions responsible for horizontal gaze palsy and various types of internuclear ophthalmoplegia (INO) was established by identifying the common areas where the abnormal MRI signals from patients with a given ocular-motor disorder overlapped. Patients with unilateral gaze palsy had lesions in the paramedian area of the pons, including the abducens nucleus, the lateral part of the nucleus reticularis pontis caudalis and the nucleus reticularis pontis oralis. Patients with abducens nucleus lesions showed additional clinical signs of lateral rectus weakness. Lesions responsible for bilateral gaze palsy involved the pontine tegmental raphe. Since this region contains the saccadic omnipause neurons, this finding suggests that damage to omnipause cells produces slowing of saccades rather than opsoclonus, as previously proposed. All INOs, regardless of the presence of impaired abduction or convergence, had similar MRI appearances. Frequently the lesions in patients with INO, were not confined to the medial longitudinal fasciculus (MLF) but also involved neighbouring structures at the pontine and mid-brain levels. There was a statistically significant association between the clinical severity of the INO and the presence of abnormal abduction or convergence. The findings suggest that the lesions outside the MLF, which may affect abducens, gaze or convergence pathways, are responsible for the presence of features additional to INO, depending on the magnitude of functional disruption they produce.
Saccadic suppression, a behavioral phenomenon in which perceptual thresholds are elevated prior to, during, and after saccadic eye movements, is an important mechanism for maintaining perceptual stability. However, even during fixation, the eyes never remain still, but undergo movements including microsaccades, drift, and tremor. The neural mechanisms for mediating perceptual stability in the face of these “fixational” movements are not fully understood. Here, we investigated one component of such mechanisms: a neural correlate of microsaccadic suppression. We measured the size of short-latency, stimulus-induced visual bursts in superior colliculus (SC) neurons of adult, male rhesus macaques. We found that microsaccades caused ~30% suppression of the bursts. Suppression started ~70 ms before microsaccade onset and ended ~70 ms after microsaccade end, a timecourse similar to behavioral measures of this phenomenon in humans. We also identified a new behavioral effect of microsaccadic suppression on saccadic reaction times, even for continuously presented, suprathreshold visual stimuli. These results provide evidence that the superior colliculus is part of the mechanism for suppressing self-generated visual signals during microsaccades that might otherwise disrupt perceptual stability.
Superior Colliculus; Fixational Eye Movement; Microsaccades; Saccadic Suppression; Microsaccadic Suppression; Perceptual Stability
How the brain learns and maintains accurate precision movements is currently unknown. At times throughout life, rapid gaze shifts (saccades) become inaccurate, but the brain makes gradual adjustments so they again stop on target. Previously, we showed that complex spikes (CSs) in Purkinje cells of the oculomotor cerebellum report the direction and amplitude by which saccades are in error. Anatomical studies indicate that this error signal could originate in the superior colliculus (SC). Here we deliver sub-threshold electrical stimulation of the SC after the saccade lands to signal an apparent error. The size of saccades in the same direction as the simulated error gradually increase; those in the opposite direction decrease. The electrically-adapted saccades endure after stimulation is discontinued, exhibit an adaptation field, can undergo changes in direction and depend on error timing. These electrically-induced adaptations were virtually identical to those produced by the visually-induced adaptations that we report here for comparable visual errors in the same monkeys. Therefore, our experiments reveal that an additional role for the SC in the generation of saccades is to provide a vector error signal that drives dysmetric saccades to adapt. Moreover, the characteristics of the electrically-induced adaptation reflect those of error-related CS activity in the oculomotor cerebellum, suggesting that CS activity serves as the learning signal. We speculate that CS activity may serve as the error signal that drives other kinds of motor learning as well.
Saccades; Colliculus; Cerebellum; Climbing Fiber; Adaptation; Motor Learning
Despite their prevalence in nature, echoes are not perceived as events separate from the sounds arriving directly from an active source, until the echo's delay is long. We measured the head-saccades of barn owls and the responses of neurons in their auditory space-maps while presenting a long duration noise-burst and a simulated echo. Under this paradigm, there were two possible stimulus segments that could potentially signal the location of the echo. One was at the onset of the echo; the other, after the offset of the direct (leading) sound, when only the echo was present. By lengthening the echo's duration, independently of its delay, spikes and saccades were evoked by the source of the echo even at delays that normally evoked saccades to only the direct source. An echo's location thus appears to be signaled by the neural response evoked after the offset of the direct sound.
A major challenge in computational neurobiology is to understand how populations of noisy, broadly-tuned neurons produce accurate goal-directed actions such as saccades. Saccades are high-velocity eye movements that have stereotyped, nonlinear kinematics; their duration increases with amplitude, while peak eye-velocity saturates for large saccades. Recent theories suggest that these characteristics reflect a deliberate strategy that optimizes a speed-accuracy tradeoff in the presence of signal-dependent noise in the neural control signals. Here we argue that the midbrain superior colliculus (SC), a key sensorimotor interface that contains a topographically-organized map of saccade vectors, is in an ideal position to implement such an optimization principle. Most models attribute the nonlinear saccade kinematics to saturation in the brainstem pulse generator downstream from the SC. However, there is little data to support this assumption. We now present new neurophysiological evidence for an alternative scheme, which proposes that these properties reside in the spatial-temporal dynamics of SC activity. As predicted by this scheme, we found a remarkably systematic organization in the burst properties of saccade-related neurons along the rostral-to-caudal (i.e., amplitude-coding) dimension of the SC motor map: peak firing-rates systematically decrease for cells encoding larger saccades, while burst durations and skewness increase, suggesting that this spatial gradient underlies the increase in duration and skewness of the eye velocity profiles with amplitude. We also show that all neurons in the recruited population synchronize their burst profiles, indicating that the burst-timing of each cell is determined by the planned saccade vector in which it participates, rather than by its anatomical location. Together with the observation that saccade-related SC cells indeed show signal-dependent noise, this precisely tuned organization of SC burst activity strongly supports the notion of an optimal motor-control principle embedded in the SC motor map as it fully accounts for the straight trajectories and kinematic nonlinearity of saccades.
As the fovea is the only spot on the retina with high spatial resolution, primates need to move their eyes to peripheral targets for detailed inspection. Saccades are the fastest movements of the body, and theoretical studies suggest that their trajectories are optimized to bring the fovea as fast and accurately as possible on target. Speed-accuracy optimization principles explain the stereotyped nonlinear ‘main-sequence’ relationship between saccade amplitude, duration, and peak velocity. Earlier models attributed these kinematic properties to nonlinear neural circuitry in the brainstem but this creates problems for oblique saccades. Here, we demonstrate how the brainstem can be linear, and how instead the midbrain superior colliculus (SC) could optimize saccadic speed-accuracy tradeoff. Each saccade involves the recruitment of a large population of SC neurons. We show that peak firing-rate and burst shape of the recruited cells systematically vary with their location in the SC, and that burst shapes nicely match the eye-velocity profiles. This organization of burst properties fully explains the main-sequence. Moreover, all cells synchronize their bursts, thus maximizing the total instantaneous input to the brainstem, and ensuring that oblique saccades have straight trajectories. We thus discovered a sophisticated neural mechanism underlying optimal motor control in the brain.