A cascade of neuronal signals precedes each saccadic eye movement to targets in the visual scene. In the cerebral cortex, this neuronal processing culminates in the frontal eye field (FEF), where neurons have bursts of activity before the saccade. This presaccadic activity is typically considered to drive downstream activity in the intermediate layers of the superior colliculus (SC), which receives direct projections from FEF. Consequently, the FEF activity is thought to be determined solely by earlier cortical processing and unaffected by activity in the SC. Recent evidence of an ascending path from the SC to FEF raises the possibility, however, that presaccadic activity in the FEF may also depend on input from the SC. Here we tested this possibility by recording from single FEF neurons during the reversible inactivation of SC. Our results indicate that presaccadic activity in the FEF does not require SC input: we never observed a significant reduction in FEF presaccadic activity when the SC was inactivated. Unexpectedly, in a third of experiments, SC inactivation elicited a significant increase in FEF presaccadic activity. The passive visual response of FEF neurons, in contrast, was virtually unaffected by inactivation of the SC. These findings show that presaccadic activity in the FEF does not originate in the SC but nevertheless may be influenced by modulatory signals ascending from the SC.
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