Fixation cells in monkey superior colliculus. I. Characteristics of cell discharge

J Neurophysiol. 1993 Aug;70(2):559-75. doi: 10.1152/jn.1993.70.2.559.


1. We studied the role of the superior colliculus (SC) in the control of visual fixation by recording from cells in the rostral pole of the SC in awake monkeys that were trained to perform fixation and saccade tasks. 2. We identified a subset of neurons in three monkeys that we refer to as fixation cells. These cells increased their tonic discharge rate when the monkey actively fixated a visible target spot to obtain a reward. This sustained activity persisted when the visual stimulation of the target spot was momentarily removed but the monkey was required to continue fixation. 3. The fixation cells were in the rostral pole of the SC. As the electrode descended through the SC, we encountered visual cells with foveal and parafoveal receptive fields most superficially, saccade-related burst cells with parafoveal movement fields below these visual cells, and fixation cells below the burst cells. From this sequence in depth, the fixation cells appeared to be centered in the deeper reaches of the intermediate layers, and this was confirmed by small marking lesions identified histologically. 4. During saccades, the tonically active fixation cells showed a pause in their rate of discharge. The duration of this pause was correlated to the duration of the saccade. Many cells did not decrease their discharge rate for small-amplitude contraversive saccades. 5. The saccade-related pause in fixation cell discharge always began before the onset of the saccade. The mean time from pause onset to saccade onset for contraversive saccades and ipsiversive saccades was 36.2 and 33.0 ms, respectively. Most fixation cells were reactivated before the end of contraversive saccades. The mean time from saccade terminatioN to pause end was -2.6 ms for contraversive saccades and 9.9 ms for ipsiversive saccades. The end of the saccade-related pause in fixation cell discharge was more tightly correlated to saccade termination, than pause onset was to saccade onset. 6. After the saccade-related pause in discharge, many fixation cells showed an increased discharge rate exceeding that before the pause. This increased postsaccadic discharge rate persisted for several hundred milliseconds. 7. The discharge rate of fixation cells was not consistently altered when the monkey actively fixated targets requiring different orbital positions. 8. Fixation cells discharged during smooth pursuit eye movements as they did during fixation. They maintained a steady tonic discharge during pursuit at different speeds and in different directions, provided the monkey looked at the moving target.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Attention / physiology
  • Brain Mapping
  • Brain Stem / physiology
  • Evoked Potentials, Visual / physiology
  • Fixation, Ocular / physiology*
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Male
  • Neural Inhibition / physiology
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Pursuit, Smooth / physiology
  • Saccades / physiology
  • Superior Colliculi / physiology*
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology*
  • Visual Pathways / physiology