Visual, presaccadic, and cognitive activation of single neurons in monkey lateral intraparietal area

J Neurophysiol. 1996 Nov;76(5):2841-52. doi: 10.1152/jn.1996.76.5.2841.


1. Posterior parietal cortex contains neurons that are visually responsive and active in relation to saccadic eye movements. We recorded from single neurons in a subregion of parietal cortex, the lateral intraparietal area (LIP), in alert rhesus monkeys. To characterize more completely the circumstances under which LIP neurons are responsive, we used five tasks designed to test the impact of sensory, motor, and cognitive factors. We obtained quantitative data in multiple tasks in 91 neurons. We measured neural activity during central fixation and in relation to stimulus onset and saccade onset. 2. LIP neurons have visual responses to the onset of a stationary stimulus in the receptive field. These visual responses occurred both in tasks that require a subsequent eye movement toward the stimulus and in tasks in which eye movements are not permitted, indicating that this activity is sensory rather than presaccadic. 3. Visual responses were enhanced when the monkey had to use information provided by the stimulus to guide its behavior. The amplitude of the sensory response to a given stimulus was increased in a task in which the monkey would subsequently make a saccade to the location signaled by the stimulus, as compared with the amplitude of the visual response in a simple fixation task. 4. The visual response was also enhanced when the monkey attended to the stimulus without looking at it. This result shows that enhancement does not reflect saccade preparation because the response is enhanced even when the monkey is not permitted to make a saccade. Instead, enhancement reflects the allocation of attention to the spatial locus of the receptive field. 5. Many LIP neurons had saccade-related activity in addition to their visual responses. The visual response for most neurons was stronger than the saccade-related activation. 6. Saccade-related activity was independent of visual activity. Similar presaccadic activity was observed in trials that included a recent visual stimulus (memory-guided saccade task) and in trials with no visual stimulus (learned saccade task). 7. We observed increases in activity during fixation in tasks in which the monkey could anticipate the onset of a behaviorally significant stimulus. LIP neurons usually showed low levels of background firing in the fixation task during the period before stimulus onset. This background activity was increased in the peripheral attention and memory-guided saccade tasks during the period when the monkey was waiting for a behaviorally relevant stimulus to appear. 8. The results from these several tasks indicate that LIP neurons are activated in a variety of circumstances and are not involved exclusively in sensory processing or motor planning. The modulation of sensory responses by attention and anticipation suggests that cognitive factors play a major role in parietal function.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Parietal Lobe / physiology*
  • Saccades / physiology*
  • Visual Pathways / physiology