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Role of the cat substantia nigra pars reticulata in eye and head movements II. Effects of local pharmacological injections


1. Guided and reflex eye movements were studied in cats trained to make orienting saccades toward visual and auditory targets. Injections of a GABA-agonist (Muscimol) or GABA-antagonists (Bicuculline and Picrotoxin) were made in the Substantia Nigra pars reticulata (SNpr). 2. Bicuculline and Picrotoxin, whether unilaterally or bilaterally injected had no effect on the posture nor the oculomotor performance of the animals. Neck muscle activity remained symmetrical. 3. Unilateral injections of Muscimol produced oro-facial akinesia, reduction of the number of eye movements, contralateral head turning, visual neglect mostly (but not only) for ipsilateral visual space. Balance between the gains of the vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR) in the two directions of movement was changed. Gain was decreased for the ipsilateral rotation. The optokinetic nystagmus (OKN) was not affected. Contralateral neck muscles were hypertonic. 4. After bilateral injections of Muscimol, the cats did not orient. The VOR was normal when the injections induced no postural asymmetry. Hypertony was bilateral. 5. Implications of these results for the role of the basal ganglia in motor control are discussed. We suggest that in Parkinson's disease the fixed inhibitory drive of the SNpr on the tectum and on the thalamus is disrupted.

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Correspondence to J. P. Joseph.

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Boussaoud, D., Joseph, J.P. Role of the cat substantia nigra pars reticulata in eye and head movements II. Effects of local pharmacological injections. Exp Brain Res 57, 297–304 (1985).

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Key words

  • Substantia nigra pars reticulata
  • Eye movements
  • GABA-agonists
  • GABA-antagonists