Saccadic eye movements rapidly orient the line of sight towards the object of interest. Pre-motor burst neurons (BNs) controlling saccades receive excitation from superior colliculus and cerebellum, but inhibition by omnipause neurons (OPNs) prevents saccades. When the OPNs pause, BNs begin to fire. It has been presumed that part of the BN burst comes from post-inhibitory rebound (PIR). We hypothesized that in the absence of prior inhibition from OPNs there would be no PIR, and thus the increase in initial firing rate of BNs would be reduced. Consequently, saccade acceleration would be reduced. We measured eye movements and showed that sustained eye closure, which inhibits the activity of OPNs and thus hypothetically should weaken PIR, reduced the peak velocity, acceleration, and deceleration of saccades in healthy human subjects. Saccades under closed eyelids also had irregular trajectories; the frequency of the oscillations underlying this irregularity was similar to that of high-frequency ocular flutter (back-to-back saccades) often seen in normal subjects during attempted fixation at straight ahead while eyes are closed. Saccades and quick phases of nystagmus are generated by the same pre-motor neurons, and we found that the quick-phase velocity of nystagmus was also reduced by lid closure. These changes were not due to a mechanical hindrance to the eyes, because lid closure did not affect the peak velocities or accelerations of the eyes in the " slow-phase" response to rapid head movements of comparable speeds to those of saccades. These results indicate a role for OPNs in generating the abrupt onset and high velocities of saccades. We hypothesize that the mechanism involved is PIR in pre-motor burst neurons. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd.
Shaikh, A. G., Wong, A. L., Optican, L. M., Miura, K., Solomon, D., & Zee, D. S. (2010). Sustained eye closure slows saccades. Vision Research, 50(17), 1665–1675. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.visres.2010.05.019