Discharge properties of monkey tectoreticular neurons

J Neurophysiol. 2006 Jun;95(6):3502-11. doi: 10.1152/jn.00908.2005. Epub 2006 Apr 26.


The intermediate layers of the superior colliculus (SC) contain neurons that clearly play a major role in regulating the production of saccadic eye movements: a burst of activity from saccade neurons (SNs) is thought to provide a drive signal to set the eyes in motion, whereas the tonic activity of fixation neurons (FNs) is thought to suppress saccades during fixation. The exact contribution of these neurons to saccade control is, however, unclear because the nature of the signals sent by the SC to the brain stem saccade generation circuit has not been studied in detail. Here we tested the hypothesis that the SC output signal is sufficient to control saccades by examining whether antidromically identified tectoreticular neurons (TRNs: 33 SNs and 13 FNs) determine the end of saccades. First, TRNs had discharge properties similar to those of nonidentified SC neurons and a proportion of output SNs had visually evoked responses, which signify that the saccade generator must receive and process visual information. Second, only a minority of TRNs possessed the temporal patterns of activity sufficient to terminate saccades: Output SNs did not cease discharging at the time of saccade end, possibly continuing to drive the brain stem during postsaccadic fixations, and output FNs did not resume their activity before saccade end. These results argue against a role for SC in regulating the timing of saccade termination by a temporal code and suggest that other saccade centers act to thwart the extraneous SC drive signal, unless it controls saccade termination by a spatial code.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Evoked Potentials, Visual / physiology*
  • Fixation, Ocular / physiology*
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Reticular Formation / physiology*
  • Saccades / physiology*
  • Superior Colliculi / physiology*