Purpose: Infantile strabismus is characterized by persistent misalignment of the eyes. Mounting evidence suggests that the disorder is associated with abnormalities at the neural level, but few details are known. This study investigated the signals carried by abducens neurons in monkeys with experimentally induced strabismus. We wanted to know whether the firing rates of individual neurons are exclusively related to the position and velocity of one eye and whether the overall level of activity of the abducens nucleus was in the normal range.
Methods: We recorded 58 neurons in right and left abducens nuclei while strabismic monkeys (one esotrope and one exotrope) performed a saccade task. We analyzed the firing rates associated with static horizontal eye position and saccades by fitting the data with a dynamic equation that included position and velocity terms for each eye. Results were compared to previously published data in normal monkeys.
Results: For both strabismic monkeys the overall tonic activity was 50 to 100 spikes/s lower, for every suprathreshold eye position, than what has previously been reported for normal monkeys. This was mostly the result of lower baseline activity; the slopes of rate-position curves were similar to those in previous reports in normal monkeys. The saccade velocity sensitivities were similar to those of normal monkeys, 0.35 for the esotrope and 0.40 for the exotrope. For most neurons the firing rate was more closely related to the position and velocity of the ipsilateral eye.
Conclusions: These data suggest that strabismus can be associated with reduced neural activity in the abducens nucleus.
Keywords: abducens nucleus; esotropia; exotropia; neurophysiology; strabismus.
Copyright 2014 The Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, Inc.