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Regulation of the gain of visually guided smooth-pursuit eye movements by frontal cortex

Naturevolume 409pages191194 (2001) | Download Citation



In studies of the neural mechanisms giving rise to behaviour, changes in the neural and behavioural responses produced by a given stimulus have been widely reported. This ‘gain control’ can boost the responses to sensory inputs that are particularly relevant1,2,3,4, select among reflexes for execution by motoneurons5,6 or emphasize specific movement targets7. Gain control is also an integral part of the smooth-pursuit eye movement system8,9,10,11,12,13. One signature of gain control is that a brief perturbation of a stationary target during fixation causes tiny eye movements, whereas the same perturbation of a moving target during the active state of accurate pursuit causes large responses9. Here we show that electrical stimulation of the smooth-pursuit eye movement region in the arcuate sulcus of the frontal lobe (‘the frontal pursuit area’, FPA) mimics the active state of pursuit. Such stimulation enhances the response to a brief perturbation of target motion, regardless of the direction of motion. We postulate that the FPA sets the gain of pursuit, thereby participating in target selection for pursuit.

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We thank J. Maunsell and A. Doupe for comments on the manuscript; S. Tokiyama for technical assistance; K. MacLeod and L. Montgomery for surgical assistance; M. Meneses for animal care; S. Ruffner for computer programs; D. Kleinhesselink for network management; K. McGary for electronic devices; and L. Bocskai for machinery. This work was supported by HHMI and by a NIH grant to S.G.L.

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  1. Department of Physiology, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and W. M. Keck Foundation Center for Integrative Neuroscience, University of California, San Francisco, 94143, California, USA

    • Masaki Tanaka
    •  & Stephen G. Lisberger


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Correspondence to Masaki Tanaka.

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