Changes in the response rate and response variability of area V4 neurons during the preparation of saccadic eye movements

J Neurophysiol. 2010 Mar;103(3):1171-8. doi: 10.1152/jn.00689.2009. Epub 2009 Dec 16.


The visually driven responses of macaque area V4 neurons are modulated during the preparation of saccadic eye movements, but the relationship between presaccadic modulation in area V4 and saccade preparation is poorly understood. Recent neurophysiological studies suggest that the variability across trials of spiking responses provides a more reliable signature of motor preparation than mean firing rate across trials. We compared the dynamics of the response rate and the variability in the rate across trials for area V4 neurons during the preparation of visually guided saccades. As in previous reports, we found that the mean firing rate of V4 neurons was enhanced when saccades were prepared to stimuli within a neuron's receptive field (RF) in comparison with saccades to a non-RF location. Further, we found robust decreases in response variability prior to saccades and found that these decreases predicted saccadic reaction times for saccades both to RF and non-RF stimuli. Importantly, response variability predicted reaction time whether or not there were any accompanying changes in mean firing rate. In addition to predicting saccade direction, the mean firing rate could also predict reaction time, but only for saccades directed to the RF stimuli. These results demonstrate that response variability of area V4 neurons, like mean response rate, provides a signature of saccade preparation. However, the two signatures reflect complementary aspects of that preparation.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cues
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Electrophysiology
  • Evoked Potentials, Visual / physiology
  • Fixation, Ocular
  • Male
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Saccades / physiology*
  • Visual Cortex / cytology
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*