Complex spike activity in the oculomotor vermis of the cerebellum: a vectorial error signal for saccade motor learning?

J Neurophysiol. 2008 Oct;100(4):1949-66. doi: 10.1152/jn.90526.2008. Epub 2008 Jul 23.


Brain stem signals that generate saccadic eye movements originate in the superior colliculus. They reach the pontine burst generator for horizontal saccades via short-latency pathways and a longer pathway through the oculomotor vermis (OMV) of the cerebellum. Lesion studies implicate the OMV in the adaptation of saccade amplitude that occurs when saccades become inaccurate because of extraocular muscle weakness or behavioral manipulations. We studied the nature of the possible error signal that might drive adaptation by examining the complex spike (CS) activity of vermis Purkinje (P-) cells in monkeys. We produced a saccade error by displacing the target as a saccade was made toward it; a corrective saccade approximately 200 ms later eliminated the resulting error. In most P-cells, the probability of CS firing changed, but only in the error interval between the primary and corrective saccade. For most P-cells, CSs occurred in a tight cluster approximately 100 ms after error onset. The probability of CS occurrence depended on both error direction and size. Across our sample, all error directions were represented; most had a horizontal component. In more than one half of our P-cells, the probability of CS occurrence was greatest for error sizes<5 degrees and less for larger errors. In the remaining cells, there was a uniform increased probability of CS occurrence for all errors<or=7-9 degrees. CS responses disappeared when the target was extinguished during a saccade. We discuss the properties of this putative CS error signal in the context of the characteristics of saccade adaptation produced by the target displacement paradigm.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Animals
  • Cerebellum / physiology*
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Efferent Pathways / physiology*
  • Electrodes, Implanted
  • Electromagnetic Fields
  • Electrophysiology
  • Information Theory
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Oculomotor Muscles / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Saccades / physiology*