A burst-feedback model of fast-phase burst generation during nystagmus

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Vestibular and optokinetic nystagmus are characterized by alternating slow-phase eye rotations that stabilize the retinal image, and fast-phase eye rotations that reset eye position. Nystagmus is coordinated in the brainstem by burst neurons that fire an intense, temporally circumscribed burst that terminates the slow phase and drives the fast phase. This paper demonstrates that such a burst can be generated during nystagmus using a simple neural network model containing only known brainstem neurons and their interconnections. These include the feedback connections of the burst neuron (burst feedback). The burst neuron excites itself directly, and disinhibits itself by inhibiting the pause neuron (positive feedback). It also inhibits itself by inhibiting the vestibular neuron (negative feedback). The burst neuron begins to fire after its inhibitory bias is overcome by excitation from the vestibular neuron, and burst neuron positive feedback then produces an intense burst with an abrupt onset. The burst causes the vestibular and pause neurons to pause. The benefit of the pause neuron loop is that it contributes to burst neuron positive feedback when it is needed at burst onset, but that contribution is eliminated when the pause neuron pauses and opens the loop. The burst can then terminate, with an offset duration proportional to burst amplitude, under the control of burst neuron self-excitation and inhibitory bias. Model neuron behavior is comparable to that of real brainstem neurons. Synchronized bursts can be produced over the population of burst neurons in a distributed version of the network. Variability in connection weights in the distributed network results in variability in prelude activity among burst neurons that is similar to the spread in lead observed for real burst neurons during nystagmus.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)139-152
Number of pages14
JournalBiological Cybernetics
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Computer Science(all)


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