Delay activity of saccade-related neurons in the caudal dentate nucleus of the macaque cerebellum.
The caudal dentate nucleus (DN) in lateral cerebellum is connected with two visual/oculomotor areas of the cerebrum: the frontal eye field and lateral intraparietal cortex. Many neurons in frontal eye field and lateral intraparietal cortex produce "delay activity" between stimulus and response that correlates with processes such as motor planning. Our hypothesis was that caudal DN neurons would have prominent delay activity as well. From lesion studies, we predicted that this activity would be related to self-timing, i.e., the triggering of saccades based on the internal monitoring of time. We recorded from neurons in the caudal DN of monkeys (Macaca mulatta) that made delayed saccades with or without a self-timing requirement. Most (84%) of the caudal DN neurons had delay activity. These neurons conveyed at least three types of information. First, their activity was often correlated, trial by trial, with saccade initiation. Correlations were found more frequently in a task that required self-timing of saccades (53% of neurons) than in a task that did not (27% of neurons). Second, the delay activity was often tuned for saccade direction (in 65% of neurons). This tuning emerged continuously during a trial. Third, the time course of delay activity associated with self-timed saccades differed significantly from that associated with visually guided saccades (in 71% of neurons). A minority of neurons had sensory-related activity. None had presaccadic bursts, in contrast to DN neurons recorded more rostrally. We conclude that caudal DN neurons convey saccade-related delay activity that may contribute to the motor preparation of when and where to move.
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