Responses of medullary neurons to moving visual stimuli in the common toad. I. Characterization of medial reticular neurons by extracellular recording

J Comp Physiol A. 1990 Sep;167(4):495-508. doi: 10.1007/BF00190820.


The concept of coded 'command releasing systems' proposes that visually specialized descending tectal (and pretectal) neurons converge on motor pattern generating medullary circuits and release--in goal-specific combination--specific action patterns. Extracellular recordings from medullary neurons of the medial reticular formation of the awake immobilized toad in response to moving visual stimuli revealed the following main results. (i) Properties of medullary neurons were distinguished by location, shape, and size of visual receptive fields (ranging from relatively small to wide), by trigger features of various moving configural stimulus objects (including prey- and predator-selective properties), by tactile sensitivity, and by firing pattern characteristics (sluggish, tonic, warming-up, and cyclic). (ii) Visual receptive fields of medullary neurons and their responses to moving configural objects suggest converging inputs of tectal (and pretectal) descending neurons. (iii) In contrast to tectal monocular 'small-field' neurons, the excitatory visual receptive fields of comparable medullary neurons were larger, ellipsoidally shaped, mostly oriented horizontally, and not topographically mapped in an obvious fashion. Furthermore, configural feature discrimination was sharper. (iv) The observation of multiple properties in most medullary neurons (partly showing combined visual and cutaneous sensitivities) suggests integration of various inputs by these cells, and this is in principle consistent with the concept of command releasing systems. (v) There is evidence for reciprocal tectal/medullary excitatory pathways suitable for premotor warming-up. (vi) Cyclic bursting of many neurons, spontaneously or as a post-stimulus sustaining event, points to a medullary premotor/motor property.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bufo bufo
  • Discrimination, Psychological / physiology
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Electrophysiology
  • Mechanoreceptors / physiology
  • Medulla Oblongata / cytology
  • Medulla Oblongata / physiology*
  • Membrane Potentials / physiology
  • Motion Perception / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Reticular Formation / cytology
  • Reticular Formation / physiology*
  • Spinal Cord / physiology
  • Superior Colliculi / physiology
  • Visual Fields / physiology