Spatial properties of second-order vestibulo-ocular relay neurons in the alert cat

K. Fukushima, S. I. Perlmutter*, J. F. Baker, B. W. Peterson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Second-order vestibular nucleus neurons which were antidromically activated from the region of the oculomotor nucleus (second-order vestibuloocular relay neurons) were studied in alert cats during whole-body rotations in many horizontal and vertical planes. Sinusoidal rotation elicited sinusoidal modulation of firing rates except during rotation in a clearly defined null plane. Response gain (spikes/s/deg/s) varied as a cosine function of the orientation of the cat with respect to a horizontal rotation axis, and phases were near that of head velocity, suggesting linear summation of canal inputs. A maximum activation direction (MAD) was calculated for each cell to represent the axis of rotation in three-dimensional space for which the cell responded maximally. Second-order vestibuloocular neurons divided into 3 non-overlapping populations of MADs, indicating primary canal input from either anterior, posterior, or horizontal semicircular canal (AC, PC, HC cells). 80/84 neurons received primary canal input from ipsilateral vertical canals. Of these, at least 6 received input from more than one vertical canal, suggested by MAD azimuths which were sufficiently misaligned with their primary canal. In addition, 21/80 received convergent input from a horizontal canal, with about equal number of type I and type II yaw responses. 4/84 neurons were HC cells; all of them received convergent input from at least one vertical canal. Activity of many vertical second-order vestibuloocular neurons was also related to vertical and/or horizontal eye position. All AC and PC cells that had vertical eye position sensitivity had upward and downward on-directions, respectively. A number of PC cells had MADs centered around the MAD of the superior oblique muscle, and 2/3 AC cells recorded in the superior vestibular nucleus had MADs near that of the inferior oblique. Thus, signals with spatial properties appropriate to activate oblique eye muscles are present at the second-order vestibular neuron level. In contrast, none of the second-order vestibuloocular neurons had MADs near those of the superior or inferior rectus muscles. Signals appropriate to activate these eye muscles might be produced by combining signals from ipsilateral and contralateral AC neurons (for superior rectus) or PC neurons (for inferior rectus). Alternatively, less direct pathways such as those involving third or higher order vestibular or interstitial nucleus of Cajal neurons might play a crucial role in the spatial transformations between semicircular canals and vertical rectus eye muscles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)462-478
Number of pages17
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 1990


  • Alert cats
  • Oculomotor control
  • Semicircular canal convergence
  • Vestibular nucleus neurons
  • Vestibulo-ocular reflex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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