Frontal eye field sends delay activity related to movement, memory, and vision to the superior colliculus.
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Many neurons within prefrontal cortex exhibit a tonic discharge between visual stimulation and motor response. This delay activity may contribute to movement, memory, and vision. We studied delay activity sent from the frontal eye field (FEF) in prefrontal cortex to the superior colliculus (SC). We evaluated whether this efferent delay activity was related to movement, memory, or vision, to establish its possible functions. Using antidromic stimulation, we identified 66 FEF neurons projecting to the SC and we recorded from them while monkeys performed a Go/Nogo task. Early in every trial, a monkey was instructed as to whether it would have to make a saccade (Go) or not (Nogo) to a target location, which permitted identification of delay activity related to movement. In half of the trials (memory trials), the target disappeared, which permitted identification of delay activity related to memory. In the remaining trials (visual trials), the target remained visible, which permitted identification of delay activity related to vision. We found that 77% (51/66) of the FEF output neurons had delay activity. In 53% (27/51) of these neurons, delay activity was modulated by Go/Nogo instructions. The modulation preceded saccades made into only part of the visual field, indicating that the modulation was movement-related. In some neurons, delay activity was modulated by Go/Nogo instructions in both memory and visual trials and seemed to represent where to move in general. In other neurons, delay activity was modulated by Go/Nogo instructions only in memory trials, which suggested that it was a correlate of working memory, or only in visual trials, which suggested that it was a correlate of visual attention. In 47% (24/51) of FEF output neurons, delay activity was unaffected by Go/Nogo instructions, which indicated that the activity was related to the visual stimulus. In some of these neurons, delay activity occurred in both memory and visual trials and seemed to represent a coordinate in visual space. In others, delay activity occurred only in memory trials and seemed to represent transient visual memory. In the remainder, delay activity occurred only in visual trials and seemed to be a tonic visual response. In conclusion, the FEF sends diverse delay activity signals related to movement, memory, and vision to the SC, where the signals may be used for saccade generation. Downstream transmission of various delay activity signals may be an important, general way in which the prefrontal cortex contributes to the control of movement.
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W. H. Gardner, Jr. Distinguished Associate Professor
We study circuits for cognition. Using a combination of neurophysiology and biomedical engineering, we focus on the interaction between brain areas during visual perception, decision-making, and motor planning. Specific projects include the role of frontal cortex in metacognition, the role of cerebellar-frontal circuits in action timing, the neural basis of "good enough" decision-making (satisficing), and the neural mechanisms of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS).