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J Neurosci. 2009 May 6;29(18):5793-805. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4412-08.2009.

The effect of microsaccades on the correlation between neural activity and behavior in middle temporal, ventral intraparietal, and lateral intraparietal areas.

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Department of Neurobiology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


It is widely reported that the activity of single neurons in visual cortex is correlated with the perceptual decision of the subject. The strength of this correlation has implications for the neuronal populations generating the percepts. Here we asked whether microsaccades, which are small, involuntary eye movements, contribute to the correlation between neural activity and behavior. We analyzed data from three different visual detection experiments, with neural recordings from the middle temporal (MT), lateral intraparietal (LIP), and ventral intraparietal (VIP) areas. All three experiments used random dot motion stimuli, with the animals required to detect a transient or sustained change in the speed or strength of motion. We found that microsaccades suppressed neural activity and inhibited detection of the motion stimulus, contributing to the correlation between neural activity and detection behavior. Microsaccades accounted for as much as 19% of the correlation for area MT, 21% for area LIP, and 17% for VIP. While microsaccades only explain part of the correlation between neural activity and behavior, their effect has implications when considering the neuronal populations underlying perceptual decisions.

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