Rapid and accurate saccadic eye movements are crucial for vision. Since real-world scenes are often crowded with many objects, a fundamental requirement for saccades is the serial selection of single targets from a field of multiple potential targets. Saccade target selection is subserved by a network of cortical and subcortical brain areas, but we still have little idea of how activity across these areas is coordinated. This project investigates the interactions among the superior colliculus (SC), the frontal eye field (FEF), and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC). The SC is regarded as the gateway for eye-movement commands from cortex to reach the brainstem, but perturbations in SC activity do not just affect the execution of saccades;they also influence the selection of eye-movement targets. This raises a key question: Does the SC simply act as a final selection stage before transmitting saccade commands downstream, or does SC activity influence saccadic decision-making in cortex? To answer this, we will simultaneously record isolated neurons and local field potentials from SC and FEF, and apply advanced analysis techniques to reveal the interactions and likely flow of information between these two areas. Next, we will perturb activity in the SC by temporarily inactivating a portion of it, and will determine whether and how selection-related activity in FEF is altered. We will also investigate how frontal cortex influences selection in the SC. Specifically, frontal area dlPFC is thought to be particularly important for selection based on abstract rules or internal goals. We will test this idea and investigate dlPFC's influence on the SC by analyzing simultaneously-recorded activity in the two areas during performance of rule-governed and salience-based selection tasks. Finally, to test for a causal link with dlPFC, we will record behavior and SC activity while dlPFC is temporarily inactivated. The results will not only provide new information about the functional architecture of saccadic decision-making; they will also lead toward a better understanding of how cortical and subcortical brain areas interact in performance of a cognitive task.

Public Health Relevance

Our ability to select appropriate targets from a cluttered visual field is normally taken for granted, and its importance only becomes apparent when it fails, as in cognitive impairments such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or unilateral visual neglect, for example. This study will illuminate the interactions within a network of brain areas involved in target selection. The results will bring new insights into the likely causes of target selection deficits, and may eventually lead to improved strategies for diagnosis, rehabilitation or treatment of disorders affecting visual selection.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Eye Institute (NEI)
Research Project (R01)
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Special Emphasis Panel (SPC)
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Steinmetz, Michael A
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State College of Optometry
Schools of Optometry/Ophthalmol
New York
United States
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Lee, Byeong-Taek; McPeek, Robert M (2013) The effects of distractors and spatial precues on covert visual search in macaque. Vision Res 76:43-9
Song, Joo-Hyun; Rafal, Robert D; McPeek, Robert M (2011) Deficits in reach target selection during inactivation of the midbrain superior colliculus. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 108:E1433-40
Song, Joo-Hyun; Rowland, Jess; McPeek, Robert M et al. (2011) Attentional modulation of fMRI responses in human V1 is consistent with distinct spatial maps for chromatically defined orientation and contrast. J Neurosci 31:12900-5
Khan, Aarlenne Z; Song, Joo-Hyun; McPeek, Robert M (2011) The eye dominates in guiding attention during simultaneous eye and hand movements. J Vis 11:9
Khan, Aarlenne Z; Heinen, Stephen J; McPeek, Robert M (2010) Attentional cueing at the saccade goal, not at the target location, facilitates saccades. J Neurosci 30:5481-8
Song, Joo-Hyun; McPeek, Robert M (2010) Roles of narrow- and broad-spiking dorsal premotor area neurons in reach target selection and movement production. J Neurophysiol 103:2124-38
Song, Joo-Hyun; McPeek, Robert M (2009) Eye-hand coordination during target selection in a pop-out visual search. J Neurophysiol 102:2681-92
Khan, Aarlenne Z; Blohm, Gunnar; McPeek, Robert M et al. (2009) Differential influence of attention on gaze and head movements. J Neurophysiol 101:198-206
Song, Joo-Hyun; Takahashi, Naomi; McPeek, Robert M (2008) Target selection for visually guided reaching in macaque. J Neurophysiol 99:14-24
McPeek, Robert M (2008) Reversal of a distractor effect on saccade target selection after superior colliculus inactivation. J Neurophysiol 99:2694-702

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