The role of the lateral intraparietal area of the monkey in the generation of saccades and visuospatial attention

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2002 Apr:956:205-15. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2002.tb02820.x.


The brain cannot monitor or react towards the entire world at a given time. Instead, using the process of attention, it selects objects in the world for further analysis. Neuronal activity in the monkey intraparietal area has the properties appropriate for a neuronal substrate of attention: instead of all objects being represented in the parietal cortex, only salient objects are. Such objects can be salient because of their physical properties (recently flashed objects or moving objects) or because they can be made important to the animal by virtue of a task. Although lateral intraparietal area (LIP) neurons respond through the delay period of a memory-guided saccade, they also respond in an enhanced manner to distractors flashed during the delay period of a memory-guided saccade being generated to a position outside the receptive field. This activity parallels the monkey's psychophysical attentional process: attention is ordinarily pinned at the goal of a memory-guided saccade, but it shifts briefly to the locus of a task-irrelevant distractor flashed briefly during the delay period and then returns to the goal. Although neurons in LIP have been implicated as being directly involved in the generation of saccadic eye movements, their activity does not predict where, when, or if a saccade will occur. The ensemble of activity in LIP, however, does accurately describe the locus of attention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Memory / physiology
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Parietal Lobe / physiology*
  • Saccades / physiology*
  • Space Perception / physiology*