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Difficulty of visual search modulates neuronal interactions and response variability in the frontal eye field.


Cohen JY , Pouget P , Woodman GF , Subraveti CR , Schall JD , Rossi AF , . Journal of neurophysiology. primary| primary| primary| primary| primary| primary 11 ; 98(5). 2580-7


The frontal eye field (FEF) is involved in selecting visual targets for eye movements. To understand how populations of FEF neurons interact during target selection, we recorded activity from multiple neurons simultaneously while macaques performed two versions of a visual search task. We used a multivariate analysis in a point process statistical framework to estimate the instantaneous firing rate and compare interactions among neurons between tasks. We found that FEF neurons were engaged in more interactions during easier visual search tasks compared with harder search tasks. In particular, eye movement-related neurons were involved in more interactions than visual-related neurons. In addition, our analysis revealed a decrease in the variability of spiking activity in the FEF beginning approximately 100 ms before saccade onset. The minimum in response variability occurred approximately 20 ms earlier for the easier search task compared with the harder one. This difference is positively correlated with the difference in saccade reaction times for the two tasks. These findings show that a multivariate analysis can provide a measure of neuronal interactions and characterize the spiking activity of FEF neurons in the context of a population of neurons.