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Keywords:

  • behavioral neurophysiology;
  • eye movement;
  • Macaca mulatta;
  • reaching movement;
  • saccade direction;
  • frontal cortex

Abstract

We tested whether neuronal activity in the dorsal premotor cortex (PMd) reflected the orientation of selective spatial attention, as opposed to the target of a reaching movement, eye position and saccade direction. These four spatial variables were dissociated in two tasks, which both required that a monkey attend to a robot's location in order to know when to make a movement. However, the target of the reaching movement varied; it was the robot's location in one task, but a different location in the other task. Eye position was recorded, but not explicitly controlled. Of 199 PMd neurons sampled, 19% had activity related to eye position, and an overlapping 11% were related to saccade direction (totaling 24% of the PMd sample). Of the 152 PMd neurons that lacked oculomotor relationships, ≈ 20% reflected the orientation of selective spatial attention. Attentional tuning may account, at least in part, for gaze-independent receptive fields and visuospatial, target or goal relationships in tasks involving stimulus–response incompatibility.