Plasticity and tuning of the time course of analog persistent firing in a neural integrator
Ocular Physiological Phenomena
In a companion paper, we reported that the goldfish oculomotor neural integrator could be trained to instability or leak by rotating the visual surround with a velocity proportional to +/- horizontal eye position, respectively. Here we analyze changes in the firing rate behavior of neurons in area I in the caudal brainstem, a central component of the oculomotor neural integrator. Persistent firing could be detuned to instability and leak, respectively, along with fixation behavior. Prolonged training could reduce the time constant of persistent firing of some cells by more than an order of magnitude, to <1 s. Normal visual feedback gradually retuned persistent firing of integrator neurons toward stability, along with fixation behavior. In animals with unstable fixations, approximately half of the eye position-related cells had upward or unstable firing rate drift. In animals with leaky fixations, two-thirds of the eye position-related cells showed leaky firing drift. The remaining eye position-related cells, generally those with lower eye position thresholds, showed a more complex pattern of history-dependent/predictive firing rate drift in relation to eye drift. These complex drift cells often showed a drop in maximum persistent firing rate after training to leak. Despite this diversity, firing drift and the degree of instability or leak in firing rates were broadly correlated with fixation performance. The presence, strength, and reversibility of this plasticity demonstrate that, in this system, visual feedback plays a vital role in gradually tuning the time course of persistent neural firing.