Indexed on: 16 May '06Published on: 16 May '06Published in: Biological Cybernetics
During natural activities, two types of eye movements - saccades and vergence - are used in concert to point the fovea of each eye at features of interest. Some electrophysiological studies support the concept of independent neurobiological substrates for saccades and vergence, namely saccadic and vergence burst neurons. Discerning the interaction of these two components is complicated by the near-synchronous occurrence of saccadic and vergence components. However, by positioning the far target below the near target, it is possible to induce responses in which the peak velocity of the vertical saccadic component precedes the peak velocity of the horizontal vergence component by approximately 75 ms. When saccade-vergence responses are temporally dissociated in this way, the vergence velocity waveform changes, becoming less skewed. We excluded the possibility that such change in skewing was due to visual feedback by showing that similar behavior occurred in darkness. We then tested a saccade-related vergence burst neuron (SVBN) model proposed by Zee et al. in J Neurophysiol 68:1624-1641 (1992), in which omnipause neurons remove inhibition from both saccadic and vergence burst neurons. The technique of parameter estimation was used to calculate optimal values for responses from human subjects in which saccadic and convergence components of response were either nearly synchronized or temporally dissociated. Although the SVBN model could account for convergence waveforms when saccadic and vergence components were nearly synchronized, it could not when the components were temporally dissociated. We modified the model so that the saccadic pulse changed the parameter values of the convergence burst units if both components were synchronized. The modified model accounted for velocity waveforms of both synchronous and dissociated convergence movements. We conclude that both the saccadic pulse and omnipause neuron inhibition influence the generation of vergence movements when they are made synchronously with saccades.