Journal of Neurophysiology

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Modification of saccadic eye movements by GABA-related substances. I. Effect of muscimol and bicuculline in monkey superior colliculus

O. Hikosaka, R. H. Wurtz


Our previous observations led to the hypothesis that cells in the substantia nigra pars reticulata (SNr) tonically inhibit saccade-related cells in the intermediate layers of the superior colliculus (SC). Before saccades to visual or remembered targets, cells in SNr briefly reduce that inhibition, allowing a burst of spikes of SC cells that, in turn, leads to the initiation of a saccadic eye movement. Since this inhibition is likely to be mediated by gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), we tested this hypothesis by injecting a GABA agonist (muscimol) or a GABA antagonist (bicuculline) into the superior colliculus and measured the effects on saccadic eye movements made to visual or remembered targets. An injection of muscimol selectively suppressed saccades to the movement field of the cells near the injection site. The affected area expanded over time, thus suggesting the diffusion of muscimol in the SC; the area never included the other hemifield, suggesting that the diffusion was limited to one SC. One of the monkeys became unable to make any saccades to the affected area. Saccades to visual targets following injection of muscimol had longer latency and slightly shorter amplitudes that were corrected by subsequent saccades. The most striking change was a decrease in the peak velocity of the saccade, frequently to less than half the preinjection value. Saccades to remembered targets following injection of muscimol also showed an increase in latency and decrease in velocity, but in addition, showed a striking decrease in the accuracy of the saccades. The trajectories of saccades became distorted as if they were deflected away from the affected area. After muscimol injection, the area over which spontaneous eye movements were made shifted toward the side ipsilateral to the injection. Saccades toward the contralateral side were less frequent and slower. In nystagmus, which developed later, the slow phase was toward the contralateral side. In contrast to muscimol, injection of bicuculline facilitated the initiation of saccades. Injection was followed almost immediately by stereotyped and apparently irrepressible saccades made toward the center of the movement field of the SC cells at the injection site. The monkeys became unable to fixate during the tasks; the fixation was interrupted by saccadic jerks made to the affected area of the visual field and then back to the fixation point.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)