Using neuronal latency to determine sensory-motor processing pathways in reaction time tasks

J Neurophysiol. 2005 May;93(5):2974-86. doi: 10.1152/jn.00508.2004. Epub 2004 Nov 17.


We describe a new technique that uses the timing of neuronal and behavioral responses to explore the contributions of individual neurons to specific behaviors. The approach uses both the mean neuronal latency and the trial-by-trial covariance between neuronal latency and behavioral response. Reliable measurements of these values were obtained from single-unit recordings made from anterior inferotemporal (AIT) cortex and the frontal eye fields (FEF) in monkeys while they performed a choice reaction time task. These neurophysiological data show that the responses of AIT neurons and some FEF neurons have little covariance with behavioral response, consistent with a largely "sensory" response. The responses of another group of FEF neurons with longer mean latency covary tightly with behavioral response, consistent with a largely "motor" response. A very small fraction of FEF neurons had responses consistent with an intermediate position in the sensory-motor pathway. These results suggest that this technique is a valuable tool for exploring the functional organization of neuronal circuits that underlie specific behaviors.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Male
  • Models, Neurological
  • Motor Neurons / physiology*
  • Neural Pathways / cytology
  • Neural Pathways / physiology*
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Psychomotor Performance
  • Reaction Time / physiology*
  • Task Performance and Analysis
  • Temporal Lobe / cytology*
  • Temporal Lobe / physiology
  • Time Factors
  • Visual Fields / physiology*