Implications of rotational kinematics for the oculomotor system in three dimensions

J Neurophysiol. 1987 Oct;58(4):832-49. doi: 10.1152/jn.1987.58.4.832.


1. This paper develops three-dimensional models for the vestibuloocular reflex (VOR) and the internal feedback loop of the saccadic system. The models differ qualitatively from previous, one-dimensional versions, because the commutative algebra used in previous models does not apply to the three-dimensional rotations of the eye. 2. The hypothesis that eye position signals are generated by an eye velocity integrator in the indirect path of the VOR must be rejected because in three dimensions the integral of angular velocity does not specify angular position. Computer simulations using eye velocity integrators show large, cumulative gaze errors and post-VOR drift. We describe a simple velocity to position transformation that works in three dimensions. 3. In the feedback control of saccades, eye position error is not the vector difference between actual and desired eye positions. Subtractive feedback models must continuously adjust the axis of rotation throughout a saccade, and they generate meandering, dysmetric gaze saccades. We describe a multiplicative feedback system that solves these problems and generates fixed-axis saccades that accord with Listing's law. 4. We show that Listing's law requires that most saccades have their axes out of Listing's plane. A corollary is that if three pools of short-lead burst neurons code the eye velocity command during saccades, the three pools are not yoked, but function independently during visually triggered saccades. 5. In our three-dimensional models, we represent eye position using four-component rotational operators called quaternions. This is not the only algebraic system for describing rotations, but it is the one that best fits the needs of the oculomotor system, and it yields much simpler models than do rotation matrix or other representations. 6. Quaternion models predict that eye position is represented on four channels in the oculomotor system: three for the vector components of eye position and one inversely related to gaze eccentricity and torsion. 7. Many testable predictions made by quaternion models also turn up in models based on other mathematics. These predictions are therefore more fundamental than the specific models that generate them. Among these predictions are 1) to compute eye position in the indirect path of the VOR, eye or head velocity signals are multiplied by eye position feedback and then integrated; consequently 2) eye position signals and eye or head velocity signals converge on vestibular neurons, and their interaction is multiplicative.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Computer Simulation
  • Eye Movements*
  • Feedback
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Motor Neurons / physiology
  • Oculomotor Muscles / innervation*
  • Rotation
  • Saccades