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Neuron. 2004 Jun 10;42(5):831-41.

Visual responses on neck muscles reveal selective gating that prevents express saccades.

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CHIR Group in Sensory-Motor Systems, Department of Physiology, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada.


Express saccades promote the acquisition of visual targets at extremely short reaction times. Because of the head's considerable inertia, it is unknown whether express saccades are accompanied by a parallel command to the head. Here, by recording electromyographic (EMG) activity from monkey neck muscles, we demonstrate that visual target presentation elicits time-locked, lateralized recruitment of neck muscles at extremely short latencies (55-95 ms). Remarkably, such recruitment not only accompanies express saccades, but also precedes nonexpress saccades, occasionally by up to 150 ms. These results demonstrate selective gating of components of descending commands from the superior colliculus to prevent express saccades yet permit recruitment of a head orienting synergy. We conclude that such selective gating aids eye-head coordination by permitting force development at neck muscles while a decision to commit to a gaze shift is being made, optimizing the contribution of the more inertial head to the ensuing gaze shift.

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