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Alteration of the timing of self-initiated but not reactive saccades by electrical stimulation in the supplementary eye field


Dr Masaki Tanaka, as above.


Although we can generate movements whenever we feel like doing so, the way in which neuronal signals regulate the timing of self-initiated movements remains elusive. There is evidence that the dorsomedial frontal cortex, including the supplementary eye field (SEF), is involved in the self-triggering of movements. Because the gradual evolution of cortical activity over the dorsomedial frontal cortex is known to reflect the temporal prediction of an upcoming event, we postulated that the timing of self-initiated movements is regulated by the time course of neuronal activity in the SEF. To test the causal role, we applied electrical microstimulation to the SEF when monkeys prepared for memory-guided saccades. Stimulation delayed the initiation of saccades when animals were required to make saccades 1200 ± 300 ms following the cue (self-timed task), but not when they generated memory-guided saccades in response to the offset of the fixation point (conventional task). As well as the increment in median saccade latencies, stimulation at ∼24% of sites also increased the occurrence of early erroneous saccades. Saccades facilitated by stimulation were always directed toward the cue, even when the cue was located away from the movement field. In contrast, stimulation to the frontal eye fields during saccade preparation exerted no effects in either task. These results suggest that the preparatory signals in the SEF may play a causal role in regulating the timing rather than the direction of self-initiated saccades.