Premotor neurons encode torsional eye velocity during smooth-pursuit eye movements

Dora E. Angelaki, J. David Dickman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Responses to horizontal and vertical ocular pursuit and head and body rotation in multiple planes were recorded in eye movement-sensitive neurons in the rostral vestibular nuclei (VN) of two rhesus monkeys. When tested during pursuit through primary eye position, the majority of the cells preferred either horizontal or vertical target motion. During pursuit of targets that moved horizontally at different vertical eccentricities or vertically at different horizontal eccentricities, eye angular velocity has been shown to include a torsional component the amplitude of which is proportional to half the gaze angle ("half-angle rule" of Listing's law). Approximately half of the neurons, the majority of which were characterized as "vertical" during pursuit through primary position, exhibited significant changes in their response gain and/or phase as a function of gaze eccentricity during pursuit, as if they were also sensitive to torsional eye velocity. Multiple linear regression analysis revealed a significant contribution of torsional eye movement sensitivity to the responsiveness of the cells. These findings suggest that many VN neurons encode three-dimensional angular velocity, rather than the two-dimensional derivative of eye position, during smooth-pursuit eye movements. Although no clear clustering of pursuit preferred-direction vectors along the semicircular canal axes was observed, the sensitivity of VN neurons to torsional eye movements might reflect a preservation of similar premotor coding of visual and vestibular-driven slow eye movements for both lateral-eyed and foveate species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2971-2979
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 1 2003


  • Coordinate frame
  • Eye movement
  • Kinematics
  • Sensorimotor
  • Smooth pursuit
  • Three-dimensional
  • Torsion
  • Vergence
  • Vestibulo-ocular

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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