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Leah Bakst, Jérome Fleuriet, Michael J. Mustari; FEFsem neuronal response during combined volitional and reflexive pursuit. Journal of Vision 2017;17(5):13. doi: 10.1167/17.5.13.
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Although much is known about volitional and reflexive smooth eye movements individually, much less is known about how they are coordinated. It is hypothesized that separate cortico-ponto-cerebellar loops subserve these different types of smooth eye movements. Specifically, the MT-MST-DLPN pathway is thought to be critical for ocular following eye movements, whereas the FEF-NRTP pathway is understood to be vital for volitional smooth pursuit. However, the role that these loops play in combined volitional and reflexive behavior is unknown. We used a large, textured background moving in conjunction with a small target spot to investigate the eye movements evoked by a combined volitional and reflexive pursuit task. We also assessed the activity of neurons in the smooth eye movement subregion of the frontal eye field (FEFsem). We hypothesized that the pursuit system would show less contribution from the volitional pathway in this task, owing to the increased involvement of the reflexive pathway. In accordance with this hypothesis, a majority of FEFsem neurons (63%) were less active during pursuit maintenance in a combined volitional and reflexive pursuit task than during purely volitional pursuit. Interestingly and surprisingly, the neuronal response to the addition of the large-field motion was highly correlated with the neuronal response to a target blink. This suggests that FEFsem neuronal responses to these different perturbations—whether the addition or subtraction of retinal input—may be related. We conjecture that these findings are due to changing weights of both the volitional and reflexive pathways, as well as retinal and extraretinal signals.
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