Role of arcuate frontal cortex of monkeys in smooth pursuit eye movements. I. Basic response properties to retinal image motion and position.
Anatomical and physiological studies have shown that the "frontal pursuit area" (FPA) in the arcuate cortex of monkeys is involved in the control of smooth pursuit eye movements. To further analyze the signals carried by the FPA, we examined the activity of pursuit-related neurons recorded from a discrete region near the arcuate spur during a variety of oculomotor tasks. Pursuit neurons showed direction tuning with a wide range of preferred directions and a mean full width at half-maximum of 129 degrees. Analysis of latency using the "receiver operating characteristic" to compare responses to target motion in opposite directions showed that the directional response of 58% of FPA neurons led the initiation of pursuit, while 19% led by 25 ms or more. Analysis of neuronal responses during pursuit of a range of target velocities revealed that the sensitivity to eye velocity was larger during the initiation of pursuit than during the maintenance of pursuit, consistent with two components of firing related to image motion and eye motion. FPA neurons showed correlates of two behavioral features of pursuit documented in prior reports. 1) Eye acceleration at the initiation of pursuit declines as a function of the eccentricity of the moving target. FPA neurons show decreased firing at the initiation of pursuit in parallel with the decline in eye acceleration. This finding is consistent with prior suggestions that the FPA plays a role in modulating the gain of visual-motor transmission for pursuit. 2) A stationary eccentric cue evokes a smooth eye movement opposite in direction to the cue and enhances the pursuit evoked by subsequent target motions. Many pursuit neurons in the FPA showed weak, phasic visual responses for stationary targets and were tuned for the positions about 4 degrees eccentric on the side opposite to the preferred pursuit direction. However, few neurons (12%) responded during the preparation or execution of saccades. The responses to the stationary target could account for the behavioral effects of stationary, eccentric cues. Further analysis of the relationship between firing rate and retinal position error during pursuit in the preferred and opposite directions failed to provide evidence for a large contribution of image position to the firing of FPA neurons. We conclude that FPA processes information in terms of image and eye velocity and that it is functionally separate from the saccadic frontal eye fields, which processes information in terms of retinal image position.
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