Several decades of patient, functional imaging and neurophysiological studies have supported a model in which the lateral prefrontal cortex (PFC) acts to suppress unwanted saccades by inhibiting activity in the oculomotor system. However, recent results from combined PFC deactivation and neural recordings of the superior colliculus in monkeys demonstrate that the primary influence of the PFC on the oculomotor system is excitatory, and stands in direct contradiction to the inhibitory model of PFC function. Although erroneous saccades towards a visual stimulus are commonly labelled reflexive in patients with PFC damage or dysfunction, the latencies of most of these saccades are outside of the range of express saccades, which are triggered directly by the visual stimulus. Deactivation and pharmacological manipulation studies in monkeys suggest that response errors following PFC damage or dysfunction are not the result of a failure in response suppression but can best be understood in the context of a failure to maintain and implement the proper task set.
Keywords: eye movements; inhibition; prefrontal cortex; primates.