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. 2001 Feb;85(2):804-15.
doi: 10.1152/jn.2001.85.2.804.

Interaction of the Frontal Eye Field and Superior Colliculus for Saccade Generation

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Interaction of the Frontal Eye Field and Superior Colliculus for Saccade Generation

D P Hanes et al. J Neurophysiol. .
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Both the frontal eye field (FEF) in the prefrontal cortex and the superior colliculus (SC) on the roof of the midbrain participate in the generation of rapid or saccadic eye movements and both have projections to the premotor circuits of the brain stem where saccades are ultimately generated. In the present experiments, we tested the contributions of the pathway from the FEF to the premotor circuitry in the brain stem that bypasses the SC. We assayed the contribution of the FEF to saccade generation by evoking saccades with direct electrical stimulation of the FEF. To test the role of the SC in conveying information to the brain stem, we inactivated the SC, thereby removing the circuit through the SC to the brain stem, and leaving only the direct FEF-brain stem pathway. If the contributions of the direct pathway were substantial, removal of the SC should have minimal effect on the FEF stimulation, whereas if the FEF stimulation were dependent on the SC, removal of the SC should alter the effect of FEF stimulation. By acutely inactivating the SC, instead of ablating it, we were able to test the efficiency of the direct FEF-brain stem pathway before substantial compensatory mechanisms could mask the effect of removing the SC. We found two striking effects of SC inactivation. In the first, we stimulated the FEF at a site that evoked saccades with vectors that were very close to those evoked at the site of the SC inactivation, and with such optimal alignment, we found that SC inactivation eliminated the saccades evoked by FEF stimulation. The second effect was evident when the FEF evoked saccades were disparate from those evoked in the SC, and in this case we observed a shift in the direction of the evoked saccade that was consistent with the SC inactivation removing a component of a vector average. Together these observations lead to the conclusion that in the nonablated monkey the direct FEF-brain stem pathway is not functionally sufficient to generate accurate saccades in the absence of the indirect pathway that courses from the FEF through the SC to the brain stem circuitry. We suggest that the recovery of function following SC ablation that has been seen in previous studies must result not from the use of an already functioning parallel pathway but from neural plasticity within the saccadic system.

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