Recruitment of a head-turning synergy by low-frequency activity in the primate superior colliculus

J Neurophysiol. 2008 Jul;100(1):397-411. doi: 10.1152/jn.90223.2008. Epub 2008 May 21.


Low-frequency activity within the oculomotor system helps bridge sensation and action. Given ocular stability, low-frequency activity sustained by some neurons within the intermediate and deep superior colliculus (dSC) is assumed to be separated from motor output. However, the dSC is an orienting structure and the influence of low-frequency dSC activity at other effectors remains untested. We studied this by simultaneously recording activity from saccade-related dSC neurons and electromyographic (EMG) activity from neck muscles that turn the head. Monkeys performed a gap-saccade paradigm with varying levels of reward expectancy. Despite head restraint and even for relatively small target eccentricities (<or=10 degrees ), increasing reward expectancy for a given target increased the level of low-frequency activity on dSC neurons encoding saccades to the rewarded target and increased the recruitment of a neck muscle synergy that would turn the head toward the target. The magnitude of neck muscle recruitment correlated positively on a trial-by-trial basis with the level of low-frequency dSC activity, and such correlations were optimized when neck muscle activity was shifted about 20 ms later to account for delays in the tecto-reticulo-spinal pathway. Further, dSC activity discriminated about the side of target presentation approximately 11 ms earlier than neck EMG activity. Considered alongside neck EMG responses evoked causally by SC stimulation, our results are consistent with low-frequency dSC activity recruiting a head-turning synergy. Our results support a brain stem circuit wherein the magnitude of neck muscle recruitment reflects the difference in comparative low-frequency activation across both dSCs, perhaps because of mutually inhibitory interactions within downstream head premotor circuits.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • Electromyography / methods
  • Eye Movements*
  • Head Movements / physiology*
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Male
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Neck Muscles / innervation
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Recruitment, Neurophysiological / physiology*
  • Superior Colliculi / cytology*
  • Superior Colliculi / physiology