Although neurophysiological, anatomic, and imaging evidence suggest that the frontal eye field (FEF) participates in the generation of eye movements, chronic lesions of the FEF in both humans and monkeys appear to cause only minor deficits in visually guided saccade generation stronger effects are observed when subjects are tested in tasks with more cognitive requirements. We tested oculomotor function after acutely inactivating regions of the FEF to minimize the effects of plasticity and reallocation of function after the loss of the FEF and gain more insight into the FEF contribution to the guidance of eye movements in the intact brain. Inactivation was induced by microinjecting muscimol directly into physiologically defined sites in the FEF of three monkeys. FEF inactivation severely impaired the monkeys' performance of both visually guided and memory-guided saccades. The monkeys initiated fewer saccades to the retinotopic representation of the inactivated FEF site than to any other location in the visual field. The saccades that were initiated had longer latencies, slower velocities, and larger targeting errors than controls. These effects were present both for visually guided and for memory-guided saccades, although the memory-guided saccades were more disrupted. Initially, the effects were restricted spatially, concentrating around the retinotopic representation at the center of the inactivated site, but, during the course of several hours, these effects spread to flanking representations. Predictability of target location and motivation of the monkey also affected saccadic performance. For memory-guided saccades, increases in the time during which the monkey had to remember the spatial location of a target resulted in further decreases in the accuracy of the saccades and in smaller peak velocities, suggesting a progressive loss of the capacity to maintain a representation of target location in relation to the fovea after FEF inactivation. In addition, the monkeys frequently made premature saccades to targets in the hemifield ipsilateral to the injection site when performing the memory task, indicating a deficit in the control of fixation that could be a consequence of an imbalance between ipsilateral and contralateral FEF activity after the injection. There was also a progressive loss of fixation accuracy, and the monkeys tended to restrict spontaneous visual scanning to the ipsilateral hemifield. These results emphasize the strong role of the FEF in the intact monkey in the generation of all voluntary saccadic eye movements, as well as in the control of fixation.
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