Incomplete suppression of distractor-related activity in the frontal eye field results in curved saccades

J Neurophysiol. 2006 Nov;96(5):2699-711. doi: 10.1152/jn.00564.2006. Epub 2006 Aug 2.


Saccades in the presence of distractors show significant trajectory curvature. Based on previous work in the superior colliculus (SC), we speculated that curvature arises when a movement is initiated before competition between the target and distractor goals has been fully resolved. To test this hypothesis, we recorded frontal eye field (FEF) activity for curved and straight saccades in search. In contrast to the SC, activity in FEF is normally poorly correlated with saccade dynamics. However, the FEF, like the SC, is involved in target selection. Thus if curvature is caused by incomplete target selection, we expect to see its neural correlates in the FEF. We found that saccades that curve toward a distractor are accompanied by an increase in perisaccadic activity of FEF neurons coding the distractor location, and saccades that curve away are accompanied by a decrease in activity. In contrast, for FEF neurons coding the target location, there is no significant difference in activity between curved and straight saccades. To establish that the distractor-related activity is causally related to saccade curvature, we applied microstimulation to sites in the FEF before saccades to targets presented without distractors. The stimulation was subthreshold for evoking saccades and the temporal structure of the stimulation train resembled the activity recorded for curved saccades. The resulting movements curved toward the location coded by the stimulation site. These results support the idea that saccade curvature results from incomplete suppression of distractor-related activity during target selection.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Fixation, Ocular
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology
  • Microelectrodes
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Saccades / physiology*
  • Visual Fields / physiology*