Pretectal neurons optimized for the detection of saccade-like movements of the visual image

N. S C Price, M. R. Ibbotson

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The visual response properties of nondirectional wide-field sensitive neurons in the wallaby pretectum are described. These neurons are called scintillation detectors (SD-neurons) because they respond vigorously to rapid, high contrast visual changes in any part of their receptive fields. SD-neurons are most densely located within a 1- to 2-mm radius from the nucleus of the optic tract, interspersed with direction-selective retinal slip cells. Receptive fields are monocular and cover large areas of the contralateral visual field (30-120°). Response sizes are equal for motion in all directions, and spontaneous activities are similar for all orientations of static sine-wave gratings. Response magnitude increases near linearly with increasing stimulus diameter and contrast. The mean response latency for wide-field, high-contrast motion stimulation was 43.4 ± 9.4 ms (mean ± SD, n = 28). The optimum visual stimuli for SD-neurons are wide-field, low spatial frequency (<0.2 cpd) scenes moving at high velocities (75-500°/s). These properties match the visual input during saccades, indicating optimal sensitivity to rapid eye movements. Cells respond to brightness increments and decrements, suggesting inputs from ON and OFF channels. Stimulation with high-speed, low spatial frequency gratings produces oscillatory responses at the input temporal frequency. Conversely, high spatial frequency gratings give oscillations predominantly at the second harmonic of the temporal frequency. Contrast reversing sine-wave gratings elicit transient, phase-independent responses. These responses match the properties of Y retinal ganglion cells, suggesting that they provide inputs to SD-neurons. We discuss the possible role of SD-neurons in suppressing ocular following during saccades and in the blink or saccade-locked modulation of lateral geniculate nucleus activity to control retino-cortical information flow.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1512-1521
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Neurophysiology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 19 Apr 2001
Externally publishedYes

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