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J Neurosci. 2009 Dec 16;29(50):15621-9. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4465-09.2009.

Selection and maintenance of spatial information by frontal eye field neurons.

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  • 1Department of Neurobiology, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California 94305, USA.


Voluntary attention is often allocated according to internally maintained goals. Recent evidence indicates that the frontal eye field (FEF) participates in the deployment of spatial attention, even in the absence of saccadic eye movements. In addition, many FEF neurons maintain persistent representations of impending saccades. However, the role of persistent activity in the general maintenance of spatial information, and its relationship to spatial attention, has not been explored. We recorded the responses of single FEF neurons in monkeys trained to remember cued locations in order to detect changes in targets embedded among distracters in a task that did not involve saccades. We found that FEF neurons persistently encoded the cued location throughout the trial during the delay period, when no visual stimuli were present, and during visual discrimination. Furthermore, FEF activity reliably predicted whether monkeys would detect the target change. Population analyses revealed that FEF neurons with persistent activity were more effective at selecting the target from among distracters than neurons lacking persistent activity. These results demonstrate that FEF neurons maintain spatial information in the absence of saccade preparation and suggest that this maintenance contributes to the selection of relevant visual stimuli.

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