The role of the human dorsolateral prefrontal cortex in ocular motor behavior

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2005 Apr;1039:239-51. doi: 10.1196/annals.1325.023.


The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) is involved in the preparation of saccadic eye movements. Lesion studies and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies suggest that the human DLPFC is located in area 46 of Brodmann. The DLPFC has direct connections with the main cortical ocular motor areas, that is with the frontal eye field (FEF) and the supplementary eye field (SEF) in the frontal lobe; with several (associative, attentional, and motor) areas in the posterior parietal cortex (PPC), including the parietal eye field (PEF); with the cingulate eye field in the anterior cingulate cortex; and directly downstream with the superior colliculus in the brainstem. Lesion and fMRI studies using the antisaccade paradigm have shown that the DLPFC is involved in the inhibition of unwanted reflexive saccades (triggered toward the target by the PEF), whereas the triggering of correct intentional antisaccades (made in the direction opposite to the target) may depend mainly upon the FEF. The DLPFC also controls short-term spatial working memory involved in memory-guided saccades, as shown by lesion and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) studies. By contrast, medium-term spatial memory (after 25 s) may be controlled by the medial temporal cortex (MTC). Recently, TMS studies have suggested that the transmission of memorized information from the integrative parietal areas (PPC) to the MTC is performed via both an indirect pathway comprising the DLPFC (i.e., transmission in series) and a direct pathway bypassing the DLPFC (i.e., transmission in parallel). Furthermore, the DLPFC is involved in the preparation of predictive saccades (i.e., saccades made before the appearance of an expected target) and saccade sequences, and, therefore, also controls some aspects of temporal working memory. Lastly, the involvement of the DLPFC has recently been reported in tasks comprising a target selection or a directional decision to make for the forthcoming saccade. These different functions suggest that the DLPFC plays a major role in the decisional processes governing ocular motor behavior.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Mapping
  • Functional Laterality
  • Haplorhini
  • Humans
  • Memory
  • Oculomotor Nerve / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Prefrontal Cortex / anatomy & histology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Saccades / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*