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J Neurophysiol. 2003 Aug;90(2):1124-39.

Discharge of saccade-related superior colliculus neurons during saccades accompanied by vergence.

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Department of Psychology, University of Alabama, Birmingham 35294, USA.


It has long been believed that the superior colliculus (SC) is involved in the production of saccades but plays no role in the generation of vergence eye movements. However, results from several recent studies suggest that it may be worthwhile to examine the role of the SC in saccade-vergence interactions. Specifically, the available literature suggests two questions: do saccade-related neurons in SC have three-dimensional movement fields and is the slowing of saccades by vergence attributable, in part, to changes in the level of activity in SC? Single-unit data were recorded from 51 saccade-related neurons in rhesus monkey SC during saccades without vergence, saccades accompanied by convergence, and saccades accompanied by divergence. Most cells (78% for convergence, 86% for divergence) showed a significant reduction in peak spike density when the saccade was accompanied by vergence. A minority of cells (16% for convergence, 2% for divergence) increased their firing rate for saccades accompanied by vergence. Three cells were found that discharged in association with saccades, vergence, and the combination of the two. There were no cells that exhibited the pattern of discharge that would be expected of a cell tuned for saccades with divergence. Thus the present results do not support the hypothesis that saccade-related SC neurons are, as a rule, tuned in three dimensions. Small, but significant, differences in firing rate were often found for saccades without vergence at near and far distances. Approximately half of the cells showed a significant relationship between spike activity and saccade velocity, but the correlations tended to be very weak. This suggests that the decreased neuronal activity of SC neurons has only a limited effect on saccade velocity. For some cells, the movement field shifted for saccades with vergence. These shifts were highly variable from one cell to another.

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