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Pastor, Angel M.; Calvo, P. M.; Cruz, R. R. de la; Baker, Robert; Straka, Hans ORCID: 0000-0003-2874-0441 (20. March 2019): Discharge properties of morphologically identified vestibular neurons recorded during horizontal eye movements in the goldfish. In: Journal of Neurophysiology, Vol. 121, No. 5: pp. 1865-1878
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Computational capability and connectivity are key elements for understanding how central vestibular neurons contribute to gaze-stabilizing eye movements during self-motion. In the well-characterized and segmentally distributed hindbrain oculomotor network of goldfish, we determined afferent and efferent connections along with discharge patterns of descending octaval nucleus (DO) neurons during different eye motions. Based on activity correlated with horizontal eye and head movements, DO neurons were categorized into two complementary groups that either increased discharge during both contraversive (type II) eye (e) and ipsiversive (type I) head (h) movements (eIIhI) or vice versa (eIhII). Matching time courses of slow-phase eye velocity and corresponding firing rates during prolonged visual and head rotation suggested direct causality in generating extraocular motor commands. The axons of the dominant eIIhI subgroup projected either ipsi- or contralaterally and terminated in the abducens nucleus, Area II, and Area I with additional recurrent collaterals of ipsilaterally projecting neurons within the parent nucleus. Distinct feedforward commissural pathways between bilateral DO neurons likely contribute to the generation of eye velocity signals in eIhII cells. The shared contribution of DO and Area II neurons to eye velocity storage likely represents an ancestral condition in goldfish that is clearly at variance with the task separation between mammalian medial vestibular and prepositus hypoglossi neurons. This difference in signal processing between fish and mammals might correlate with a larger repertoire of visuo-vestibular-driven eye movements in the latter species that potentially required a shift in sensitivity and connectivity within the hindbrain-cerebello-oculomotor network. NEW & NOTEWORTHY We describe the structure and function of neurons within the goldfish descending octaval nucleus. Our findings indicate that eye and head velocity signals are processed by vestibular and Area II velocity storage integrator circuitries whereas the velocity-to-position Area I neural integrator generates eye position solely. This ancestral condition differs from that of mammals, in which vestibular neurons generally lack eye position signals that are processed and stored within the nucleus prepositus hypoglossi.