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Neuron. 2004 Aug 19;43(4):575-83.

Manipulating intent: evidence for a causal role of the superior colliculus in target selection.

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Systems Neurobiology Laboratory, Salk Institute for Biological Studies, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California 92037, USA.


The superior colliculus (SC) is well known for its role in the motor control of saccades. Recent work has shown that it also plays a role in the selection of saccades, but a causal role in the process of target selection has not been demonstrated. We applied subthreshold microstimulation to the SC while monkeys performed a task requiring them to select a stimulus as the target for a pursuit or saccade movement. Stimulation increased the proportion of selections toward the stimulus that appeared contralateral to the site of stimulation and also decreased their latencies. For pursuit, this stimulation-induced contralateral response bias was with respect to the initial target location and not the direction of eye movement, demonstrating a causal effect on target choice distinct from any effect on motor preparation. These results show that the SC helps decide the object of the next movement, beyond its traditional responsibility of saccade production.

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