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Eye Position Influence on the Parieto-occipital Area PO (V6) of the Macaque Monkey


Correspondence to: C. Galletti, as above


The aim of this work was to study the effect of eye position on the activity of neurons of area PO (V6), a cortical region located in the most posterior part of the superior parietal lobule. Experiments were carried out on three awake macaque monkeys. Animals sat in a primate chair in front of a large screen, and fixated a small spot of light projected in different screen locations while the activity of single neurons was extracellularly recorded. Both visual and non-visual neurons were found. About 48% of visual and 32% of non-visual neurons showed eye position-related activity in total darkness, while in ˜61% of visual neurons the visual response was modulated by eye position in the orbit. Eye position fields and/or gain fields were different from cell to cell, going from large and quite planar fields up to peak-shaped fields localized in more or less restricted regions of the animal's field of view. The spatial distribution of fixation point locations evoking peak activity in the eye position-sensitive population did not show any evident laterality effect, or significant top/bottom asymmetry. Moreover, the cortical distribution of eye position-sensitive neurons was quite uniform all over the cortical region studied, suggesting the absence of segregation for this property within area PO (V6). In the great majority of visual neurons, the receptive field‘moved’with gaze according to eye displacements, remaining at the same retinotopic coordinates, as is usual for visual neurons. In some cases, the receptive field did not move with gaze, remaining anchored to the same spatial location regardless of eye movements (‘real-position cells'). A model is proposed suggesting how eye position-sensitive visual neurons might build up real-position cells in local networks within area PO (V6). The presence in area PO (V6) of real-position cells together with a high percentage of eye position-sensitive neurons, most of them visual in nature, suggests that this cortical area is engaged in the spatial encoding of extrapersonal visual space. Since lesions of the superior parietal lobule in humans produce deficits in visual localization of targets as well as in arm-reaching for them, and taking into account that the monkey's area PO (V6) is reported to be connected with the premotor area 6, we suggest that area PO (V6) supplies the premotor cortex with the visuo-spatial information required for the visual control of arm-reaching movements.