Previous work in goldfish has suggested that the oculomotor velocity-to-position neural integrator for horizontal eye movements may be confined bilaterally to a distinct group of medullary neurons that show an eye-position signal. To establish this localization, the anatomy and discharge properties of these position neurons were characterized with single-cell Neurobiotin labeling and extracellular recording in awake goldfish while monitoring eye movements with the scleral search-coil method. All labeled somata (n = 9) were identified within a region of a medially located column of the inferior reticular formation that was ~350 μm in length, ~250 μm in depth, and ~125 μm in width. The dendrites of position neurons arborized over a wide extent of the ventral half of the medulla with especially heavy ramification in the initial 500 μm rostral of cell somata (n = 9). The axons either followed a well-defined ventral pathway toward the ipsilateral abducens (n = 4) or crossed the midline (n = 2) and projected toward the contralateral group of position neurons and the contralateral abducens. A mapping of the somatic region using extracellular single unit recording revealed that position neurons (n > 120) were the dominant eye-movement-related cell type in this area. Position neurons did not discharge below a threshold value of horizontal fixation position of the ipsilateral eye. Above this threshold, firing rates increased linearly with increasing temporal position [mean position sensitivity = 2.8 (spikes/s)/°, n = 44]. For a given fixation position, average rates of firing were higher after a temporal saccade than a nasal one (n = 19/19); the magnitude of this hysteresis increased with increasing position sensitivity. Transitions in firing rate accompanying temporal saccades were overshooting (n = 43/44), beginning, on average, 17.2 ms before saccade onset (n = 17). Peak firing rate change accompanying temporal saccades was correlated with eye velocity (n = 36/41). The anatomical findings demonstrate that goldfish medullary position neurons have somata that are isolated from other parts of the oculomotor system, have dendritic fields overlapping with axonal terminations of neurons with velocity signals, and have axons that are capable of relaying commands to the abducens. The physiological findings demonstrate that the signals carried by position neurons could be used by motoneurons to set the fixation position of the eye. These results are consistent with a role for position neurons as elements of the velocity-to-position neural integrator for horizontal eye movements.
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