Eye fields in the frontal lobes of primates.

Thumbnail Image



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title

Repository Usage Stats



Two eye fields have been identified in the frontal lobes of primates: one is situated dorsomedially within the frontal cortex and will be referred to as the eye field within the dorsomedial frontal cortex (DMFC); the other resides dorsolaterally within the frontal cortex and is commonly referred to as the frontal eye field (FEF). This review documents the similarities and differences between these eye fields. Although the DMFC and FEF are both active during the execution of saccadic and smooth pursuit eye movements, the FEF is more dedicated to these functions. Lesions of DMFC minimally affect the production of most types of saccadic eye movements and have no effect on the execution of smooth pursuit eye movements. In contrast, lesions of the FEF produce deficits in generating saccades to briefly presented targets, in the production of saccades to two or more sequentially presented targets, in the selection of simultaneously presented targets, and in the execution of smooth pursuit eye movements. For the most part, these deficits are prevalent in both monkeys and humans. Single-unit recording experiments have shown that the DMFC contains neurons that mediate both limb and eye movements, whereas the FEF seems to be involved in the execution of eye movements only. Imaging experiments conducted on humans have corroborated these findings. A feature that distinguishes the DMFC from the FEF is that the DMFC contains a somatotopic map with eyes represented rostrally and hindlimbs represented caudally; the FEF has no such topography. Furthermore, experiments have revealed that the DMFC tends to contain a craniotopic (i.e., head-centered) code for the execution of saccadic eye movements, whereas the FEF contains a retinotopic (i.e., eye-centered) code for the elicitation of saccades. Imaging and unit recording data suggest that the DMFC is more involved in the learning of new tasks than is the FEF. Also with continued training on behavioural tasks the responsivity of the DMFC tends to drop. Accordingly, the DMFC is more involved in learning operations whereas the FEF is more specialized for the execution of saccadic and smooth pursuit eye movements.







Marc A. Sommer

Professor of Biomedical Engineering

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).

Unless otherwise indicated, scholarly articles published by Duke faculty members are made available here with a CC-BY-NC (Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial) license, as enabled by the Duke Open Access Policy. If you wish to use the materials in ways not already permitted under CC-BY-NC, please consult the copyright owner. Other materials are made available here through the author’s grant of a non-exclusive license to make their work openly accessible.