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J Neurophysiol. 2009 Oct;102(4):2410-22. doi: 10.1152/jn.00234.2009. Epub 2009 Aug 12.

Response properties of fixation neurons and their location in the frontal eye field in the monkey.

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Department of Systems Neurophysiology, Graduate School of Medicine, Tokyo Medical and Dental University, Yushima, Tokyo, Japan.


Electrical stimulation of the frontal eye field (FEF) has recently been reported to suppress the generation of saccades, which supports the idea that the FEF plays a role in maintaining attentive fixation. This study analyzed the activity of fixation neurons that discharged during fixation in the FEF in relation to visual fixation and saccades in trained monkeys. The neural activity of fixation neurons increased at the start of fixation and was maintained during fixation. When a fixation spot of light disappeared during steady fixation, different fixation neurons exhibited different categories of response, ranging from a decrease in activity to an increase in activity, indicating that there is a continuum of fixation neurons, from neurons with foveal visual-related activity to neurons with activity that is related to the motor act of fixating. Fixation neurons usually showed a decrease in their firing rate before the onset of visually guided saccades (Vsacs) and memory-guided saccades in any direction. The reduction in activity of fixation neurons nearly coincided with, or occurred slightly before, the increase in the activity of saccade-related movement neurons in the FEF in the same monkey. Although fixation neurons were scattered in the FEF, about two thirds of fixation neurons were concentrated in a localized area in the FEF at which electrical stimulation induced strong suppression of the initiation of Vsacs bilaterally. These results suggest that fixation neurons in the FEF are part of a suppression mechanism that could control the maintenance of fixation and the initiation of saccades.

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