Distinct control of initiation and metrics of memory-guided saccades and vergence by the FEF: a TMS study

PLoS One. 2011;6(5):e20322. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0020322. Epub 2011 May 26.


Background: The initiation of memory guided saccades is known to be controlled by the frontal eye field (FEF). Recent physiological studies showed the existence of an area close to FEF that controls also vergence initiation and execution. This study is to explore the effect of transcranial magnetic simulation (TMS) over FEF on the control of memory-guided saccade-vergence eye movements.

Methodology/principal findings: Subjects had to make an eye movement in dark towards a target flashed 1 sec earlier (memory delay); the location of the target relative to fixation point was such as to require either a vergence along the median plane, or a saccade, or a saccade with vergence; trials were interleaved. Single pulse TMS was applied on the left or right FEF; it was delivered at 100 ms after the end of memory delay, i.e. extinction of fixation LED that was the "go" signal. Twelve healthy subjects participated in the study. TMS of left or right FEF prolonged the latency of all types of eye movements; the increase varied from 21 to 56 ms and was particularly strong for the divergence movements. This indicates that FEF is involved in the initiation of all types of memory guided movement in the 3D space. TMS of the FEF also altered the accuracy but only for leftward saccades combined with either convergence or divergence; intrasaccadic vergence also increased after TMS of the FEF.

Conclusions/significance: The results suggest anisotropy in the quality of space memory and are discussed in the context of other known perceptual motor anisotropies.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Saccades / physiology*
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation / methods*
  • Visual Fields / physiology*
  • Young Adult