Neuronal activity in the lateral cerebellum of the cat related to visual stimuli at rest, visually guided step modification, and saccadic eye movements

J Physiol. 1998 Jan 15;506 ( Pt 2)(Pt 2):489-514. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7793.1998.489bw.x.


1. The discharge patterns of 166 lateral cerebellar neurones were studied in cats at rest and during visually guided stepping on a horizontal circular ladder. A hundred and twelve cells were tested against one or both of two visual stimuli: a brief full-field flash of light delivered during eating or rest, and a rung which moved up as the cat approached. Forty-five cells (40%) gave a short latency response to one or both of these stimuli. These visually responsive neurones were found in hemispheral cortex (rather than paravermal) and the lateral cerebellar nucleus (rather than nucleus interpositus). 2. Thirty-seven cells (of 103 tested, 36%) responded to flash. The cortical visual response (mean onset latency 38 ms) was usually an increase in Purkinje cell discharge rate, of around 50 impulses s-1 and representing 1 or 2 additional spikes per trial (1.6 on average). The nuclear response to flash (mean onset latency 27 ms) was usually an increased discharge rate which was shorter lived and converted rapidly to a depression of discharge or return to control levels, so that there were on average only an additional 0.6 spikes per trial. A straightforward explanation of the difference between the cortical and nuclear response would be that the increased inhibitory Purkinje cell output cuts short the nuclear response. 3. A higher proportion of cells responded to rung movement, sixteen of twenty-five tested (64%). Again most responded with increased discharge, which had longer latency than the flash response (first change in dentate output ca 60 ms after start of movement) and longer duration. Peak frequency changes were twice the size of those in response to flash, at 100 impulses s-1 on average and additional spikes per trial were correspondingly 3-4 times higher. Both cortical and nuclear responses were context dependent, being larger when the rung moved when the cat was closer than further away. 4. A quarter of cells (20 of 84 tested, 24%) modulated their activity in advance of saccades, increasing their discharge rate. Four-fifths of these were non-reciprocally directionally selective. Saccade-related neurones were usually susceptible to other influences, i.e. their activity was not wholly explicable in terms of saccade parameters. 5. Substantial numbers of visually responsive neurones also discharged in relation to stepping movements while other visually responsive neurones discharged in advance of saccadic eye movements. And more than half the cells tested were active in relation both to eye movements and to stepping movements. These combinations of properties qualify even individual cerebellar neurones to participate in the co-ordination of visually guided eye and limb movements.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cats / physiology*
  • Cerebellum / physiology*
  • Evoked Potentials, Visual / physiology
  • Motion Perception / physiology
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Reaction Time
  • Saccades / physiology*
  • Time Factors
  • Visual Cortex / cytology
  • Visual Cortex / physiology
  • Visual Pathways / physiology
  • Visual Perception / physiology