Current knowledge of saccade-blink interactions suggests that blinks have paradoxical effects on saccade generation. Blinks suppress saccade generation by attenuating the oculomotor drive command in structures like the superior colliculus (SC), but they also disinhibit the saccadic system by removing the potent inhibition of pontine omnipause neurons (OPNs). To better characterize these effects, we evoked the trigeminal blink reflex by delivering an air puff to one eye as saccades were evoked by sub-optimal stimulation of the SC. For every stimulation site, the peak and average velocities of stimulation with blink movements (SwBMs) were lower than stimulation-only saccades (SoMs), supporting the notion that the oculomotor drive is weakened in the presence of a blink. In contrast, the duration of the SwBMs was longer, consistent with the hypothesis that the blink-induced inhibition of the OPNs could prolong the window of time available for oculomotor commands to drive an eye movement. The amplitude of the SwBM could also be larger than the SoM amplitude obtained from the same site, particularly for cases in which blink-associated eye movements exhibited the slowest kinematics. The results are interpreted in terms of neural signatures of saccade-blink interactions.
Publisher: Public Library of Science
Date Published: 14-December-2012
Author(s): Katnani H., Van Opstal A., Gandhi N.