Abnormal saccadic eye movements can serve as biomarkers for patients with several neuropsychiatric disorders. The common marmoset (Callithrix jacchus) is becoming increasingly popular as a nonhuman primate model to investigate the cortical mechanisms of saccadic control. Recently, our group demonstrated that microstimulation in the posterior parietal cortex (PPC) of marmosets elicits contralateral saccades. Here we recorded single-unit activity in the PPC of the same two marmosets using chronic microelectrode arrays while the monkeys performed a saccadic task with gap trials (target onset lagged fixation point offset by 200 ms) interleaved with step trials (fixation point disappeared when the peripheral target appeared). Both marmosets showed a gap effect, shorter saccadic reaction times (SRTs) in gap vs. step trials. On average, stronger gap-period responses across the entire neuronal population preceded shorter SRTs on trials with contralateral targets although this correlation was stronger among the 15% "gap neurons," which responded significantly during the gap. We also found 39% "target neurons" with significant saccadic target-related responses, which were stronger in gap trials and correlated with the SRTs better than the remaining neurons. Compared with saccades with relatively long SRTs, short-SRT saccades were preceded by both stronger gap-related and target-related responses in all PPC neurons, regardless of whether such response reached significance. Our findings suggest that the PPC in the marmoset contains an area that is involved in the modulation of saccadic preparation.NEW & NOTEWORTHY As a primate model in systems neuroscience, the marmoset is a great complement to the macaque monkey because of its unique advantages. To identify oculomotor networks in the marmoset, we recorded from the marmoset posterior parietal cortex during a saccadic task and found single-unit activities consistent with a role in saccadic modulation. This finding supports the marmoset as a valuable model for studying oculomotor control.
Keywords: Utah array; common marmoset; electrophysiology; gap effect; posterior parietal cortex; single-unit recording; visually-guided saccade.