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Discharge Patterns And Recruitment Order Of Identified Motoneurons And Internuclear Neurons In The Monkey Abducens Nucleus

A. F. Fuchs, C. A. Scudder, C. R. Kaneko

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1. Single neurons in the abducens nucleus were recorded extracellularly in alert rhesus macaques trained to make a variety of eye movements. An abducens neurons was identified as a motoneuron (MN) if its action potentials triggered an averaged EMG potential in the lateral rectus muscle. Abducens internuclear neurons (INNs) that project to the oculomotor nucleus were identified by collision block of spontaneous with antidromic action potentials evoked with a stimulating electrode placed in the medial rectus subdivision of the contralateral oculomotor nucleus. 2. All abducens MNs and INNs had qualitatively similar discharge patterns consisting of a burst of spikes for lateral saccades and a steady firing whose rate increased with lateral eye position in excess of a certain threshold. 3. For both MNs and INNs the firing rates associated with different, constant eye positions could be described accurately by a straight line with slope, K (the eye position sensitivity in spikes.s-1.deg-1), and intercept, T (the eye position threshold for steady firing). For different MNs, K increased as T varied from more medial to more lateral values. In contrast, the majority of INNs already were active for values of T more medial than 20 degrees and showed little evidence of recruitment according to K. 4. During horizontal sinusoidal smooth-pursuit eye movements, both MNs and INNs exhibited a sinusoidal modulation in firing rate whose peak preceded eye position. From these firing rate patterns, the component of firing rate related to eye velocity, R (the eye velocity sensitivity in spikes.s-1.deg-1.s-1), was determined. The R for INNs was, on average, 78% larger than that for MNs. Furthermore, R increased with T for MNs, whereas INNs showed no evidence of recruitment according to R. If, as in the cat, the INNs of monkeys provide the major input to medial rectus MNs and if simian medial rectus MNs behave like our abducens MNs, then recruitment order, which is absent in INNs, must be established at the MN pool itself. 5. Unexpectedly, the R of MNs decreased with the frequency of the smooth-pursuit movement. Furthermore, the eye position sensitivity, K, obtained during steady fixations was usually less than that determined during smooth pursuit. Therefore, conclusions about the roles of MNs and premotor neurons based on how their R and K values differ must be viewed with caution if the data have been obtained under different tracking conditions.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)