Timing Determines Tuning: A Rapid Spatial Transformation in Superior Colliculus Neurons during Reactive Gaze Shifts

eNeuro. 2020 Jan 3;7(1):ENEURO.0359-18.2019. doi: 10.1523/ENEURO.0359-18.2019. Print 2020 Jan/Feb.


Gaze saccades, rapid shifts of the eyes and head toward a goal, have provided fundamental insights into the neural control of movement. For example, it has been shown that the superior colliculus (SC) transforms a visual target (T) code to future gaze (G) location commands after a memory delay. However, this transformation has not been observed in "reactive" saccades made directly to a stimulus, so its contribution to normal gaze behavior is unclear. Here, we tested this using a quantitative measure of the intermediate codes between T and G, based on variable errors in gaze endpoints. We demonstrate that a rapid spatial transformation occurs within the primate's SC (Macaca mulatta) during reactive saccades, involving a shift in coding from T, through intermediate codes, to G. This spatial shift progressed continuously both across and within cell populations [visual, visuomotor (VM), motor], rather than relaying discretely between populations with fixed spatial codes. These results suggest that the SC produces a rapid, noisy, and distributed transformation that contributes to variable errors in reactive gaze shifts.

Keywords: saccades; spatial transformation; superior colliculus; transformation; visuomotor.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Fixation, Ocular
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Memory
  • Neurons
  • Saccades*
  • Superior Colliculi*