Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 113, Issue 1, pp 180–185 | Cite as

Attention-related neurons in the supplementary eye field of the macaque monkey

Research Note


This study investigated whether the neuronal activity of a cortical area involved in the control of eye fixation is affected by the covert orienting of attention. We recorded single-unit activity from the supplementary eye field (SEF) of two macaque monkeys performing fixation and peripheral-attention tasks. Ninety-nine out of four hundred and fifteen cells were related to eye movements. The other neurons showed relationship with postural adjustments, and arm and ear movements. Fifty-five neurons were active during fixation (fixation cells) and 44 discharged in relation to saccades. The experiments reported here primarily concern the fixation cells. The activity of 64% (35/55) of fixation cells started with the onset of visual stimulus, before the visual input reached the fovea, and continued during active fixation. The activity of 27% (15/55) of fixation cells started with the onset of fixation. The activity of 9% (5/55) of fixation cells modified their timing trial by trial. Sixty-four percent of the fixation cells (35/55) were position-dependent, showing a selective spatial field of activity, 36% (20/55) were position-independent and characterized by a full spatial field. None of the 55 cells showed a visual receptive field. We tested both types of fixation cells by means of a peripheral attention task. When attention was oriented peripherally toward a target located in the selective spatial field, the cells discharged as if the gaze was held toward it. When attention was oriented peripherally toward a target, lying outside the selective spatial field, the cells were inactive as if gaze was held in that position. These results suggest that the supplementary eye field neurons may code for oriented attention in space and might be involved in the preparation of motor action.

Key words

Frontal cortex Spatial attention Unit activity Supplementary eye field Monkey 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biomedical Sciences, Section of PhysiologyUniversity of ModenaModenaItaly
  2. 2.Institute of PhysiologyUniversity of TriesteItaly

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