Role of the rostral superior colliculus in active visual fixation and execution of express saccades.
1. In the rostral pole of the monkey superior colliculus (SC) a subset of neurons (fixation cells) discharge tonically when a monkey actively fixates a target spot and pause during the execution of saccadic eye movements. 2. To test whether these fixation cells are necessary for the control of visual fixation and saccade suppression, we artificially inhibited them with a local injection of muscimol, an agonist of the inhibitory neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). After injection of muscimol into the rostral pole of one SC, the monkey was less able to suppress the initiation of saccades. Many unwanted visually guided saccades were initiated less than 100 ms after onset of a peripheral visual stimulus and therefore fell into the range of express saccades. 3. We propose that fixation cells in the rostral SC form part of a fixation system that facilitates active visual fixation and suppresses the initiation of unwanted saccadic eye movements. Express saccades can only occur when activity in this fixation system is reduced.