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J Neurophysiol. 1996 Sep;76(3):1457-64.

Motor intention activity in the macaque's lateral intraparietal area. II. Changes of motor plan.

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Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge 02139, USA.


1. In the companion paper we reported that the predominant signal of the population of neurons in the lateral intraparietal area (area LIP) of the monkey's posterior parietal cortex (PPC) encode the next intended saccadic eye movement during the delay period of a memory-saccade task. This result predicts that, should be monkey change his intention of what the next saccade will be, LIP activity should change accordingly to reflect the new plan. We tested this prediction by training monkeys to change their saccadic plan on command and recording the activity of LIP neurons across plan changes. 2. We trained rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) to maintain fixation on a light spot as long as this spot remained on. During this period we briefly presented one, two, or three peripheral visual stimuli in sequence, each followed by a delay (memory period, M). After the final delay the fixation spot was extinguished, and the monkey had to quickly make a saccade to the location of the last target to have appeared. The monkey could not predict which stimuli, nor how many, would appear on each trial. He thus had to plan a saccade to each stimulus as it appeared and change his saccade plan whenever a stimulus appeared at a different location. 3. We recorded the M period activity of 81 area LIP neurons (from 3 hemispheres of 2 monkeys) in this task. We predicted that, if a neuron's activity reflected the monkey's planned saccade, its activity should be high while the monkey planned a saccade in the neuron's motor field (MF), and low while the planned saccade was in the opposite direction. The activity of most of the neurons in our sample changed in accordance with our hypothesis as the monkey's planned saccade changed. 4. In one condition the monkey was instructed by visual stimuli to change his plan from a saccade in the neuron's preferred direction to a saccade planned in the opposite direction. In this condition activity decreased significantly (P < 0.05) in 65 (80%) of 81 neurons tested. These neurons' activity changed to reflect the new saccade plan even though the cue for this change was not presented in their RF. 5. As a control we randomly interleaved, among trials requiring a plan change, trials in which the monkey had to formulate two consecutive plans to make a saccade in the neuron's preferred direction. The activity remained unchanged (P < 0.05) in 22 of 31 neurons tested (79%), indicating that the neurons continued to encode the same saccade plan. 6. In a variant of the task, the cue to the location of the required saccade was either a light spot or a noise burst from a loudspeaker. Of 22 neurons tested in this task, 16 (73%) showed activity changes consistent with plan changes cued by visual or auditory stimuli. 7. Alterations in the monkey's intentions, even in the absence of overt behavior, are manifested in altered LIP activity. These activity changes could be induced whether visual or auditory cues were used to indicate the required plan changes. Most LIP neurons thus do not encode only the locations of visual stimuli, but also the intention to direct gaze to specific locations, independently of whether a gaze shift actually occurs.

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