Neuronal substrates of gaze following in monkeys


Dr Peter W. Dicke, as above.


Human and non-human primates follow the gaze of their respective conspecific to identify objects of common interest. Whereas humans rely on eye-gaze for such purposes, monkeys preferentially use head-gaze information. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies have delineated an area in the human superior temporal sulcus (STS), which is specifically activated when subjects actively follow the eye-gaze of others. Similarly, using fMRI, we have identified an analogous region in the monkey’s middle STS responding to gaze following. Hence, although humans and monkeys might rely on different directional cues guiding their attention, they seem to deploy a similar and possibly homologous cortical area to follow the gaze of a conspecific. Our results support the idea that the eyes developed a new social function in human evolution, most likely to support cooperative mutual social interactions building on a phylogenetically old STS module for the processing of head cues.