Activity of neurons in area 6 of the cat during fixation and eye movements
We studied the visuomotor properties of 645 neurons in area 6 of five cats trained in oculomotor tasks. The area we recorded from corresponds well with territories believed to contain the feline homologue of the frontal eye fields observed in primates. Despite an expectation that cells with pre-saccadic activity would be common, only a small fraction ([similar]5%) of the cells displayed activity that could be linked to subsequent saccadic eye movements. These pre-motor cells appeared to be distributed over a broad region of cortex mixed in with other cell types. As in primates, saccade-related activity tended to occur only during “purposeful” saccades. At least 30% (208/645) of the neurons were visual, with many of these cells possessing huge receptive fields that appeared to include the entire contralateral visual field. Visual responsiveness was generally attenuated by fixation during the oculomotor tasks. Although attentional mechanisms may play a role in this attenuation, this cortical area also exhibits powerful lateral interactions in which spatially displaced visual stimuli suppress each other. Most cells, visually responsive or not, were affected by fixation. Nearly equal proportions of cells showed increases or decreases in activity during fixation. For many of the cells affected by fixation, the source of this modulation appears to reflect cognitive, rather than sensory or motor processes. This included cells that showed anticipatory activity, and cells that responded to the reward only when it was presented in the context of the task. Based on the paucity of pre-saccadic neurons, it would be difficult to conclude that this region of cortex in the cat is homologous to the frontal eye fields of the monkey. However, when considered in the context of differences in the oculomotor habits of these two animals, we believe the homology fits. In addition to pre-motor neurons, the properties of several other cell types found in this area could contribute to the control of gaze.(Received September 30 1996)
(Accepted July 30 1997)
Key Words: Saccades; Fixation; Visuomotor; Visual suppression; Cognition; Attention.
c1 Reprint requests to: Theodore G. Weyand, Department of Cell Biology and Anatomy, LSU Medical Center, 1901 Perdido St., New Orleans, LA 70112, USA.