Response properties of dorsolateral pontine units during smooth pursuit in the rhesus macaque

J Neurophysiol. 1988 Aug;60(2):664-86. doi: 10.1152/jn.1988.60.2.664.


1. The anatomical connections of the dorsolateral pontine nucleus (DLPN) implicate it in the production of smooth-pursuit eye movements. It receives inputs from cortical structures believed to be involved in visual motion processing (middle temporal cortex) or motion execution (posterior parietal cortex) and projects to the flocculus of the cerebellum, which is involved in smooth pursuit. To determine the role of the DLPN in smooth pursuit, we have studied the discharge patterns of 191 DLPN neurons in five monkeys trained to make smooth-pursuit eye movements of a spot moving either across a patterned background or in darkness. 2. Four unit types could be distinguished. Visual units (15%) discharged in response to movement of a large textured pattern, often in a direction-selective fashion but not during smooth pursuit of a spot in the dark. Eye movement neurons (31%) discharged during sinusoidal smooth pursuit in the dark with peak discharge rate either at peak eye position or peak eye velocity, but they showed no response during background movement or during other visual stimulation. These units continued to discharge when the target was extinguished (blanked) briefly, and the monkey continued to make smooth eye movements in the dark. The majority (54%) of our DLPN units discharged during both smooth pursuit in the dark and background movement while the monkey fixated. Blanking the target during smooth pursuit revealed that these units fell into two distinct classes. Visual pursuit units ceased discharging during a blank, suggesting that they had only a visual sensitivity. Pursuit and visual units continued to discharge during the blank, indicating that they had a combined oculomotor and visual sensitivity. 3. Ninety-five percent of the units that discharged during smooth pursuit were direction selective. These units had rather broad directional tuning curves with widths at half height ranging from 65 to 180 degrees. Many preferred directions for DLPN units were observed, although the vertical and near-vertical directions predominated. 4. Most units that responded to large-field background movement were direction selective. During sinusoidal movement of a large-field background, half of them also discharged in relation to stimulus velocity, whereas others did not.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Animals
  • Brain Mapping
  • Eye Movements*
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Motion Perception / physiology
  • Neurons / classification
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Pons / physiology*
  • Pursuit, Smooth*
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Visual Fields
  • Visual Pathways / physiology*