Relationship of presaccadic activity in frontal eye field and supplementary eye field to saccade initiation in macaque: Poisson spike train analysis

Exp Brain Res. 1995;103(1):85-96. doi: 10.1007/BF00241967.


The purpose of this study was to investigate the temporal relationship between presaccadic neuronal discharges in the frontal eye fields (FEF) and supplementary eye fields (SEF) and the initiation of saccadic eye movements in macaque. We utilized an analytical technique that could reliably identify periods of neuronal modulation in individual spike trains. By comparing the observed activity of neurons with the random Poisson distribution generated from the mean discharge rate during the trial period, the period during which neural activity was significantly elevated with a predetermined confidence level was identified in each spike train. In certain neurons, bursts of action potentials were identified by determining the period in each spike train in which the activation deviated most from the expected Poisson distribution. Using this method, we related these defined periods of modulation to saccade initiation in specific cell types recorded in FEF and SEF. Cells were recorded in SEF while monkeys made saccades to targets presented alone. Cells were recorded in FEF while monkeys made saccades to targets presented alone or with surrounding distractors. There were no significant differences in the time-course of activity of the population of FEF presaccadic movement cells prior to saccades generated to singly presented or distractor-embedded targets. The discharge of presaccadic movement cells in FEF and SEF could be subdivided quantitatively into an early prelude followed by a high-rate burst of activity that occurred at a consistent interval before saccade initiation. The time of burst onset relative to saccade onset in SEF presaccadic movement cells was earlier and more variable than in FEF presaccadic movement cells. The termination of activity of another population of SEF neurons, known as preparatory set cells, was time-locked to saccade initiation. In addition, the cessation of SEF preparatory set cell activity coincided precisely with the beginning of the burst of SEF presaccadic movement cells. This finding raises the possibility that SEF preparatory set cells may be involved in saccade initiation by regulating the activation of SEF presaccadic movement cells. These results demonstrate the utility of the Poisson spike train analysis to relate periods of neuronal modulation to behavior.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • Brain Stem / physiology
  • Conditioning, Operant
  • Evoked Potentials, Visual / physiology
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Poisson Distribution
  • Saccades / physiology*
  • Temporal Lobe / physiology*
  • Time Factors
  • Visual Fields / physiology*