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Properties of the Optokinetic Motor Fibres in the Rock Lobster: Build-Up, Flipback, Afterdischarge and Memory, Shown by Their Firing Patterns


1. The properties of sets of motor fibres responding to both clockwise and anticlockwise rotation have been studied in the oculomotor nerve of the rock lobster. There are probably three, but perhaps four, units in each set.

2. None of these fibres has statocyst input, but there is weak input onto the tonic fibres from the antennal joints such that the eye turns in the direction toward which the antenna points.

3. Many preparations show bilateral visual input onto all fibres but the degree of coupling between the eyes is very variable, and at times can be nearly totally absent.

4. Depending on the speed of rotation the fibres show a gradual build-up in frequency, during rotation in the preferred direction, interrupted by flipbacks. During the fast stage of the resulting nystagmic movements all agonistic fibres can be completely inhibited and all antagonistic ones can be activated, usually for a period of about 0.5 sec.

5. Fibre activity is demonstrated which appears to underlie an ‘optokinetic memory’ of contrasting target position in the visual field. It consists of (a) very prolonged after-discharges for a stationary striped pattern (b) resumption of discharges at an appropriate frequency after dark periods up to 2 min, and (c) adjustment of such frequencies to changes in stripe position during the dark period.

6. The fibres show habituation to repeated stripe movement but the response can be dishabituated by passive rotation of the animal.

7. The largest visual responses were obtained to intermediate speeds of stripe rotation (about 2°/sec).