Reward-predicting activity of dopamine and caudate neurons--a possible mechanism of motivational control of saccadic eye movement

J Neurophysiol. 2004 Feb;91(2):1013-24. doi: 10.1152/jn.00721.2003. Epub 2003 Oct 1.


Recent studies have suggested that the basal ganglia are related to motivational control of behavior. To study how motivational signals modulate motor signals in the basal ganglia, we examined activity of midbrain dopamine (DA) neurons and caudate (CD) projection neurons while monkeys were performing a one-direction-rewarded version (1DR) of memory-guided saccade task. The cue stimulus indicated the goal position for an upcoming saccade and the presence or absence of reward after the trial. Among four monkeys we studied, three were sensitive to reward such that saccade velocity was significantly higher in the rewarded trials than in the nonrewarded trials; one monkey was insensitive to reward. In the reward-sensitive monkeys, both DA and CD neurons responded differentially to reward-indicating and no-reward-indicating cues. Thus DA neurons responded with excitation to a reward-indicating cue and with inhibition to a no-reward-indicating cue. A group of CD neurons responded to the cue in their response fields (mostly contralateral) and the cue response was usually enhanced when it indicated reward. In the reward-insensitive monkey, DA neurons showed no response to the cue, while the cue responses of CD neurons were not modulated by reward. Many CD neurons in the reward-sensitive monkeys, but not the reward-insensitive monkey, showed precue activity. These results suggest that DA neurons, with their connection to CD neurons, modulate the spatially selective signals in CD neurons in the reward-predicting manner and CD neurons in turn modulate saccade parameters with their polysynaptic connections to the oculomotor brain stem.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caudate Nucleus / physiology*
  • Dopamine / physiology*
  • Macaca
  • Male
  • Motivation*
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Reward*
  • Saccades / physiology*


  • Dopamine