Contribution of the forebrain archistriatal gaze fields to auditory orienting behavior in the barn owl

Exp Brain Res. 1996 Feb;108(1):23-32. doi: 10.1007/BF00242901.


A region in the barn owl forebrain, referred to as the archistriatal gaze fields (AGF), is shown to be involved in auditory orienting behavior. In a previous study, electrical microstimulation of the AGF was shown to produce saccadic movements of the eyes and head, and anatomical data revealed that neurons in the AGF region of the archistriatum project directly to brainstem tegmental nuclei that mediate gaze changes. In this study, we investigated the effects of AGF inactivation on the auditory orienting responses of trained barn owls. The AGF and/or the optic tectum (OT) were inactivated pharmacologically using the GABAA agonist muscimol. Inactivation of the AGF alone had no effect on the probability or accuracy of orienting responses to contralateral acoustic stimuli. Inactivation of the OT alone decreased the probability of responses to contralateral stimuli, but the animals were still capable of orienting accurately toward stimuli on about 60% of the trials. Inactivation of both the AGF and the OT drastically decreased the probability of responses to 16-21% and, on the few trials that the animals did respond, there was no relationship between the final direction of gaze and the location of the stimulus. Thus, with the AGF and OT both inactivated, the animals were no longer capable of orienting accurately toward acoustic stimuli located on the contralateral side. These data confirm that the AGF is involved in gaze control and that the AGF and the OT have parallel access to gaze control circuitry in the brainstem tegmentum. In these respects, the AGF in barn owls is functionally equivalent to the frontal eye fields in primates.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Birds / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Corpus Striatum / physiology*
  • Injections
  • Muscimol / pharmacology
  • Orientation / physiology*
  • Prosencephalon / physiology*
  • Reaction Time
  • Saccades
  • Sound Localization / physiology*
  • Superior Colliculi / drug effects
  • Superior Colliculi / physiology


  • Muscimol