Abstract

Eye and head movements are coordinated during head-free pursuit. To examine whether pursuit neurons in frontal eye fields (FEF) carry gaze-pursuit commands that drive both eye-pursuit and head-pursuit, monkeys whose heads were free to rotate about a vertical axis were trained to pursue a juice feeder with their head and a target with their eyes. Initially the feeder and target moved synchronously with the same visual angle. FEF neurons responding to this gaze-pursuit were tested for eye-pursuit of target motion while the feeder was stationary and for head-pursuit while the target was stationary. The majority of pursuit neurons exhibited modulation during head-pursuit, but their preferred directions during eye-pursuit and head-pursuit were different. Although peak modulation occurred during head movements, the onset of discharge usually was not aligned with the head movement onset. The minority of neurons whose discharge onset was so aligned discharged after the head movement onset. These results do not support the idea that the head-pursuit–related modulation reflects head-pursuit commands. Furthermore, modulation similar to that during head-pursuit was obtained by passive head rotation on stationary trunk. Our results suggest that FEF pursuit neurons issue gaze or eye movement commands during gaze-pursuit and that the head-pursuit–related modulation primarily reflects reafferent signals resulting from head movements.

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