Responses of Purkinje cells in the oculomotor vermis of monkeys during smooth pursuit eye movements and saccades: comparison with floccular complex.
We recorded the responses of Purkinje cells in the oculomotor vermis during smooth pursuit and saccadic eye movements. Our goal was to characterize the responses in the vermis using approaches that would allow direct comparisons with responses of Purkinje cells in another cerebellar area for pursuit, the floccular complex. Simple-spike firing of vermis Purkinje cells is direction selective during both pursuit and saccades, but the preferred directions are sufficiently independent so that downstream circuits could decode signals to drive pursuit and saccades separately. Complex spikes also were direction selective during pursuit, and almost all Purkinje cells showed a peak in the probability of complex spikes during the initiation of pursuit in at least one direction. Unlike the floccular complex, the preferred directions for simple spikes and complex spikes were not opposite. The kinematics of smooth eye movement described the simple-spike responses of vermis Purkinje cells well. Sensitivities were similar to those in the floccular complex for eye position and considerably lower for eye velocity and acceleration. The kinematic relations were quite different for saccades vs. pursuit, supporting the idea that the contributions from the vermis to each kind of movement could contribute independently in downstream areas. Finally, neither the complex-spike nor the simple-spike responses of vermis Purkinje cells were appropriate to support direction learning in pursuit. Complex spikes were not triggered reliably by an instructive change in target direction; simple-spike responses showed very small amounts of learning. We conclude that the vermis plays a different role in pursuit eye movements compared with the floccular complex.NEW & NOTEWORTHY The midline oculomotor cerebellum plays a different role in smooth pursuit eye movements compared with the lateral, floccular complex and appears to be much less involved in direction learning in pursuit. The output from the oculomotor vermis during pursuit lies along a null-axis for saccades and vice versa. Thus the vermis can play independent roles in the two kinds of eye movement.
Raghavan, RT; Lisberger, SG
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