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J Neurophysiol. 2011 Aug;106(2):690-703. doi: 10.1152/jn.00154.2011. Epub 2011 May 18.

Cues to move increased information in superior colliculus tuning curves.

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Department of Neuroscience, School of Medicine and Public Health, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 53706, USA.


Shifts in the location of spatial attention produce increases in the gain and sensitivity of neuronal responses to sensory stimuli. Cues to shift the line of sight have the same effect on sensory responses in a motor area involved in the control of eye movements, the superior colliculus. Evidence has shown that shifts of gaze and shifts of attention are linked, suggesting there may be similar underlying mechanisms. Here, we report on a novel way in which cues to move the eyes (top-down signals) can influence sensory responses of neurons by altering the variability of their discharge rate. We measured the spatial tuning of superior colliculus neuronal activity in trials with cues to either make or withhold saccadic eye movements. We found that tuning curve widths both increased and decreased, but that the information conveyed by the neuronal discharge about the stimulus increased with a cue to make a saccade. The increase in information resulted partly from a decrease in trial-to-trial variability of neuronal discharges for stimuli located at the flanks of the tuning curves rather than from increases in the discharge rate for stimuli located at the peak of the tuning curves. This result is consistent with theoretical work and provides a novel way for cognitive signals to influence sensory responses within motor regions of the brain.

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