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J Neurosci. 2002 Mar 15;22(6):2363-73.

Role of primate substantia nigra pars reticulata in reward-oriented saccadic eye movement.

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  • 1Department of Physiology, Juntendo University, School of Medicine, Tokyo 113-8421, Japan.


To test the hypothesis that the basal ganglia are related to reward-oriented saccades, we examined activity of substantia nigra pars reticulata (SNr) neurons by using a one-direction-rewarded version of the memory-guided saccade task (1DR). Many SNr neurons changed (decreased or increased) their activity after and before a visual cue (post-cue and pre-cue activity). Post-cue decreases or increases tended to be larger to a contralateral cue. They were often modulated prospectively by the presence or absence of reward, either positively (enhanced in the rewarded condition) or negatively (enhanced in the nonrewarded condition). The positive reward modulation was more common among decreasing type neurons, whereas no such preference was observed among increasing type neurons. The reward-contingent decrease in SNr neuronal activity would facilitate rewarded saccades by inducing disinhibition in superior colliculus (SC) neurons. In contrast, the increase in SNr activity would suppress a saccade less selectively (rewarded or nonrewarded) by augmenting inhibition of SC neurons. The post-cue activity was often preceded by anticipatory pre-cue activity. Most typically, post-cue decrease was preceded by pre-cue decrease, selectively when the contralateral side was rewarded. This would reinforce the reward-oriented nature of SNr neuronal activity. The decreases and increases in SNr activity may be derived directly and indirectly, respectively, from the caudate (CD), where neurons show reward-contingent pre-cue and post-cue activity. These results suggest that the CD-SNr-SC mechanism would promote saccades oriented to reward.

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