Cognitively directed spatial selection in the frontal eye field in anticipation of visual stimuli to be discriminated

Vision Res. 2009 Jun;49(10):1205-15. doi: 10.1016/j.visres.2008.03.024. Epub 2008 May 22.


Single neuron activity was recorded in the frontal eye field (FEF) of monkeys trained to perform a difficult luminance discrimination task. The appearance of a cue stimulus informed the monkeys of the locations of two gray luminance stimuli that would appear within 500-1500ms. The monkeys were rewarded for making a saccade to the brighter of the two luminance stimuli, or if they were the same luminance, for making a saccade to the cue stimulus. Sixty percent (51/85) of FEF neurons exhibited elevated activity when the cue informed the monkeys that one of the luminance stimuli would appear in their response field (RF). This spatially selective anticipatory activity occurred without any visual stimulus appearing in their RF and was not related to saccade choice or latency. The responses of 27 of the anticipatory neurons (32% of the total sample) were also incompatible with the hypothesis that the activity represents saccade probability because they did not exhibit elevated activity for the cue stimulus which was the most probable saccade target. Behaviorally, monkeys exhibited improved perception at locations informed by cue than at unpredictable locations. These results provide physiological evidence that FEF serves an important role in endogenous spatial attention in addition to its well-known role in saccade production.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Choice Behavior / physiology
  • Cues
  • Discrimination, Psychological / physiology*
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Male
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Psychophysics
  • Saccades / physiology
  • Space Perception / physiology*
  • Visual Fields / physiology*