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Exp Brain Res. 1994;102(2):259-71.

Ear and eye representation in the frontal cortex, area 8b, of the macaque monkey: an electrophysiological study.

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Istituto di Fisiologia, Universita' di Trieste, Italy.


We evoked both ear and eye movements in area 8b, the rostral area of frontal cortex, in two monkeys. In some sites it was possible to evoke only ear movements or only eye movements; in other locations we evoked both ear and eye movements by varying the intensity of electrical stimulation. The electrically evoked ear movements were forward, or backward, or oblique (upward-forward; upward-backward). In two penetrations the ear movements were bilateral, in the other penetrations they were contralateral. Ipsilateral ear movements were not observed. The evoked eye movements were mainly fixed-vector saccades, contralateral and with an upward orientation of about 45 degrees. If we considered only the sites where the threshold was equal to or lower than 50 microA, the stimulation of this area evoked mainly ear movements. In addition we recorded the electrical activity of 195 neurons. Of these neurons: 74% (145/195) discharged before ear movements (ear cells); 20% (40/195) discharged before ear and eye movements (ear-eye cells); 5% (10/195) discharged only before eye movements (eye cells). Ninety-one percent (132/145) of ear cells presented a preferred direction; 90% (36/40) of ear-eye cells presented a preferred direction for ear movements, and 15% (6/40) presented a preferred direction for eye movements. Eighty-five percent (34/40) of cells did not present a preferred direction for visually guided saccades and were active when the monkey made saccades toward the unlit targets (checking saccades). Our results show that a field of area 8b is related to ear movements and to eye-ear movements. The findings that it is possible to obtain both ear and eye movements with low-intensity currents and that there are cells firing for the two types of movements suggest that area 8b may be involved in the orientation and coordination of both ear and eye. This area might be considered a rostral extension of supplementary eye field (SEF) or a different region. However, based on its distinct functional characteristics and connectivity, it is probably better regarded as a separate field. Regardless, the combination of 8b and SEF may constitute a cortical center for orienting processes.

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