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Spatial properties of vertical eye movement-related neurons in the region of the interstitial nucleus of Cajal in awake cats

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Summary

1. Maximal activation directions of vertical burst-tonic and tonic neurons in the region of the interstitial nucleus of Cajal (INC) were examined in alert cats during vertical vestibulo-ocular reflex induced by sinusoidal rotation (at 0.11 Hz±10 deg, or 0.31 Hz±5 deg) in a variety of vertical planes using a null point analysis. The results were compared with the angles of anatomical and functional planes of vertical canals reported by Blanks et al. (1972) and Robinson (1982), and with the angles of vertical eye muscles measured in this study and by Ezure and Graf (1984). 2. Maximal activation directions of 23 cells (21 burst-tonic and 2 tonic neurons) were determined from their responses during rotation in 4 or more different vertical planes. All cells showed sinusoidal gain curves and virtually constant phase values except near the null regions, suggesting that their responses were evoked primarily by canal inputs. Phase values of 5 cells near the null regions depended on the rotation plane, suggesting additional otolith inputs. We used a measurement error range of ±10 deg for calculating the maximal activation directions from the null regions of individual cells and the values of error ranges of null calculation. Of the 23, the maximal activation directions of 7 cells were outside the measurement error ranges of vertical eye muscle angles and within the ranges of vertical canal angles (class A), those of 5 cells were within the ranges of eye muscle angles and outside the ranges of vertical canal angles (class B), and those of the remaining 11 cells were in the overlapping ranges for both angles (class C). Even if only the cells in which 5 or more measurement points were taken to determine maximal activation directions (n = 15), the results were similar. During vertical rotation with the head orientation +60 deg off the pitch plane, dissociation of cell activity and vertical compensatory eye movement was observed in 5 cells in class A or C that had null angles near +45 deg. These results suggest that the cells in class A and B carried individual vertical canal and oculomotor signals, respectively, although it is difficult to tell for the majority of cells (class C) which signals they reflected. Some cells in class A and C were antidromically activated from the medial longitudinal fasciculus at the level of abducens nucleus, suggesting that the signals carried by these cells may be sent to the lower brainstem. 3. Most burst-tonic neurons did not respond to horizontal rotation; significant responses were obtained in only 3 of 10 cells tested for which the gain was only 14–17% of their maximal vertical gain. There was no clear difference in gain or phase values of the responses to vertical rotation, or in eye position sensitivity (during spontaneous saccades) between cells whose responses coincided with individual vertical canal angles and those matching the angles of vertical recti muscles. The values of phase lag (re head acceleration during pitch rotation) and eye position sensitivity of these cells are still smaller compared to those of extraocular motoneurons reported by Delgado-Garcia et al. (1986), although they were larger than those of secondary vestibulo-ocular neurons (Perlmutter et al. 1988). All these results suggest that the signals carried by burst-tonic and tonic neurons in the INC region are different from oculomotor signals. 4. Similar analysis was done for comparison for 19 other cells that did not show close correlation with spontaneous eye movement but whose activity was clearly modulated by pitch rotation (pitch cells). More than a half (10/19) had maximal activation directions outside the measurement error ranges of individual vertical canal angles, and many shifted towards roll. Horizontal rotation produced responses with higher gain than burst-tonic neurons, suggesting a difference in the spatial response properties of burst-tonic and tonic neurons on one hand and pitch cells on the other.

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References

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Correspondence to K. Fukushima.

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Fukushima, K., Harada, C., Fukushima, J. et al. Spatial properties of vertical eye movement-related neurons in the region of the interstitial nucleus of Cajal in awake cats. Exp Brain Res 79, 25–42 (1990). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00228871

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Key words

  • Vestibulo-ocular reflex
  • Vertical semicircular canals
  • Spatial transformation
  • Null point analysis
  • Interstitial nucleus of Cajal
  • Burst-tonic neuron
  • Cat