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J Neurophysiol. 2000 Jul;84(1):301-10.

Response of neurons in the lateral intraparietal area to a distractor flashed during the delay period of a memory-guided saccade.

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Laboratory of Sensorimotor Research, National Eye Institute, Bethesda, Maryland 20892-4435, USA.


Recent experiments raised the possibility that the lateral intraparietal area (LIP) might be specialized for saccade planning. If this was true, one would expect a decreased sensitivity to irrelevant visual stimuli appearing late in the delay period of a memory-guided delayed-saccade task to a target outside the neurons' receptive fields. We trained two monkeys to perform a standard memory-guided delayed-saccade task and a distractor task in which a stimulus flashed for 200 ms at a predictable time 300-100 ms before the end of the delay period. We used two locations, one in the most active part of the receptive field and another well outside the receptive field. We used six kinds of trials randomly intermixed: simple delayed-saccade trials into or away from the receptive field and distractor trials with saccade target and distractor both in the receptive field, both out of the receptive field, or one at each location. This enabled us to study the response to the distractor as a function of the monkey's preparation of a memory-guided delayed-saccade task. We had assumed that the preparation of a saccade away from the receptive field would result in an attenuation of the response to the distractor, i.e., a distractor at the location of the saccade goal would evoke a greater response than when it appeared at a location far from the saccade goal. Instead we found that neurons exhibited either a normal or an enhanced visual response to the distractor during the memory period when the target flashed outside the receptive field. When the distractor flashed at the location of the saccade target, the response to the distractor was either unchanged or diminished. The response to a distractor away from the target location of a memory-guided saccade was even greater than the response to the same target when it was the target for the memory-guided saccade task. Immediate presaccadic activity did not distinguish between a saccade to the receptive field when there was no distractor and a distractor in the receptive field when the monkey made a saccade elsewhere. Nonetheless the distractor had no significant effect on the saccade latency, accuracy, or velocity despite the brisk response it evoked immediately before the saccade. We suggest that these results are inconsistent with a role for LIP in the specific generation of saccades, but they are consistent with a role for LIP in the generation of visual attention.

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