Mechanics of mouse ocular motor plant quantified by optogenetic techniques

John S. Stahl, Zachary C. Thumser, Paul J. May, Francisco H. Andrade, Sean R. Anderson, Paul Dean

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Rigorous descriptions of ocular motor mechanics are often needed for models of ocular motor circuits. The mouse has become an important tool for ocular motor studies, yet most mechanical data come from larger species. Recordings of mouse abducens neurons indicate the mouse mechanics share basic viscoelastic properties with larger species but have considerably longer time constants. Time constants can also be extracted from the rate at which the eye re-centers when released from an eccentric position. The displacement can be accomplished by electrically stimulating ocular motor nuclei, but electrical stimulation may also activate nearby ocular motor circuitry. We achieved specific activation of abducens motoneurons through photostimulation in transgenic mice expressing channelrhodopsin in cholinergic neurons. Histology confirmed strong channelrhodopsin expression in the abducens nucleus with relatively little expression in nearby ocular motor structures. Stimulation was delivered as 20- to 1,000-ms pulses and 40-Hz trains. Relaxations were modeled best by a two-element viscoelastic system. Time constants were sensitive to stimulus duration. Analysis of isometric relaxation of isolated mouse extraocular muscles suggest the dependence is attributable to noninstantaneous decay of active forces in non-twitch fibers following stimulus offset. Time constants were several times longer than those obtained in primates, confirming that the mouse ocular motor mechanics are relatively sluggish. Finally, we explored the effects of 0.1- to 20-Hz sinusoidal photostimuli and demonstrated their potential usefulness in characterizing ocular motor mechanics, although this application will require further data on the temporal relationship between photostimulation and neuronal firing in extraocular motoneurons.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1455-1467
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Neurophysiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 the American Physiological Society.


  • Extraocular muscle
  • Mechanics
  • Oculomotor
  • Time constant
  • Viscoelastic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience (all)
  • Physiology


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