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Triggering mechanisms in microsaccade and saccade generation: a novel proposal

Authors


Susana Martinez-Conde, Ph.D., Director, Laboratory of Visual Neuroscience, Division of Neurobiology, Barrow Neurological Institute, 350 W. Thomas Road, Phoenix, AZ 85013. smart@neuralcorrelate.com

Abstract

Saccades are rapid eye movements that change the line of sight between successive points of fixation. Even as we attempt to fixate our gaze precisely, small rapid eye movements called microsaccades interrupt fixation one or two times each second. Although the neural pathway controlling saccade generation is well understood, the specific mechanism for triggering microsaccades is unknown. Here, we review the evidence suggesting that microsaccades and saccades are generated by the same neural pathway. We also discuss current models of how the saccadic system produces microsaccades. Finally, we propose a new mechanism for triggering both microsaccades and saccades, based on a circuit formed by omnipause and long-lead burst neurons and driven by activity in the superior colliculus. Our model differs from previous proposals in that it does not require superior colliculus activity to surpass a particular threshold to trigger microsaccades and saccades. Rather, we propose that the reciprocal inhibition between omnipause and long-lead burst neurons gates each microsaccadic or saccadic event, triggering the eye movement whenever the activity in the long-lead burst neurons overcomes the inhibition from the omnipause neurons.

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