Eye position modulates the electromyographic responses of neck muscles to electrical stimulation of the superior colliculus in the alert cat

K. Hadjidimitrakis, A. K. Moschovakis, Y. Dalezios, A. Grantyn

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Rapid gaze shifts are often accomplished with coordinated movements of the eyes and head, the relative amplitude of which depends on the starting position of the eyes. The size of gaze shifts is determined by the superior colliculus (SC) but additional processing in the lower brain stem is needed to determine the relative contributions of eye and head components. Models of eye-head coordination often assume that the strength of the command sent to the head controllers is modified by a signal indicative of the eye position. Evidence in favor of this hypothesis has been recently obtained in a study of phasic electromyographic (EMG) responses to stimulation of the SC in head-restrained monkeys (Corneil et al. in J Neurophysiol 88:2000-2018, 2002b). Bearing in mind that the patterns of eye-head coordination are not the same in all species and because the eye position sensitivity of phasic EMG responses has not been systematically investigated in cats, in the present study we used cats to address this issue. We stimulated electrically the intermediate and deep layers of the caudal SC in alert cats and recorded the EMG responses of neck muscles with horizontal and vertical pulling directions. Our data demonstrate that phasic, short latency EMG responses can be modulated by the eye position such that they increase as the eye occupies more and more eccentric positions in the pulling direction of the muscle tested. However, the influence of the eye position is rather modest, typically accounting for only 10-50% of the variance of EMG response amplitude. Responses evoked from several SC sites were not modulated by the eye position.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • EMG
  • Eye-head coordination
  • Gaze shifts
  • Head movements
  • Saccades

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