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J Neurosci. 2014 Jan 22;34(4):1183-94. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3899-13.2014.

Active vision in marmosets: a model system for visual neuroscience.

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Systems Neurobiology Laboratory, The Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla, California 92037-1099 and Department of Psychology and Neurosciences Graduate Program, The University of California at San Diego, La Jolla, California 92093-0109.


The common marmoset (Callithrix jacchus), a small-bodied New World primate, offers several advantages to complement vision research in larger primates. Studies in the anesthetized marmoset have detailed the anatomy and physiology of their visual system (Rosa et al., 2009) while studies of auditory and vocal processing have established their utility for awake and behaving neurophysiological investigations (Lu et al., 2001a,b; Eliades and Wang, 2008a,b; Osmanski and Wang, 2011; Remington et al., 2012). However, a critical unknown is whether marmosets can perform visual tasks under head restraint. This has been essential for studies in macaques, enabling both accurate eye tracking and head stabilization for neurophysiology. In one set of experiments we compared the free viewing behavior of head-fixed marmosets to that of macaques, and found that their saccadic behavior is comparable across a number of saccade metrics and that saccades target similar regions of interest including faces. In a second set of experiments we applied behavioral conditioning techniques to determine whether the marmoset could control fixation for liquid reward. Two marmosets could fixate a central point and ignore peripheral flashing stimuli, as needed for receptive field mapping. Both marmosets also performed an orientation discrimination task, exhibiting a saturating psychometric function with reliable performance and shorter reaction times for easier discriminations. These data suggest that the marmoset is a viable model for studies of active vision and its underlying neural mechanisms.


behavioral conditioning; eye movements; marmoset; primate; saccades; vision

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