Parietal Cortical Neuronal Activity Is Selective for Express Saccades
Saccadic eye movements are central to primate behavior and serve to move the eyes to visual objects of interest. Express saccades, unlike regular saccades, occur with very short reaction times, a behavior necessary for speeded reactions in goal-directed behavior. Previous studies have shown that introduction of a blank interval (gap) between the fixation point offset and the saccadic target onset leads to an increase in the number of express saccades and that the superior colliculus plays a crucial role in the generation of express saccades. A longstanding hypothesis asserted that express saccades are mediated largely by a subcortical circuit, circumventing extrastriate visual cortex. An alternative “posterior pathway” hypothesis proposed the involvement of posterior parietal cortex. In the present study, using a gap saccade task, we investigated the role of nonhuman primate's lateral intraparietal cortex (LIP) in generation of express saccades. We show that roughly half of recorded LIP neurons were modulated during the gap interval. Moreover, a group of neurons with persistent activity in a memory-guided saccade task enhanced their activity during express saccades relative to that during regular saccades. After reducing the target's certainty by increasing the potential target locations, neuronal activity remained in the similar level during express saccades but markedly reduced during regular saccades that correlated with the increase of saccadic reaction time in the regular saccade. Our results suggest that area LIP is directly involved in generating saccades in express mode.