Indexed on: 18 Aug '10Published on: 18 Aug '10Published in: Cerebral cortex (New York, N.Y. : 1991)
Behavioral studies have shown that hand position influences saccade characteristics. This study examined the neuronal changes that could underlie this behavioral observation. Single neurons were recorded in the frontal eye field (FEF) of 2 monkeys as they executed a visually guided saccade task, while holding their hand at given locations on a touch screen. The task was performed with the hand either visible or invisible, in order to assess the relative contribution of visual and proprioceptive information on hand position. Among the 224 neurons tested, the visual, saccadic and/or preparatory activity of more than half of them was modulated by hand position, whether the hand was visible or invisible. Comparison of lower (hand's workspace) and upper (out of reach) visual targets showed that hand modulation was predominant in the hand's workspace. Finally, some cells preferred congruency of hand and target in space, others preferred incongruency. Interestingly, hand modulation of saccadic activity correlated with hand position effects on saccade reaction times. We conclude that visual and proprioceptive signals derived from the hand are integrated by FEF neurons. These signals can modulate target selection through attention and allow the oculomotor system to use hand-related somatosensory signals for the initiation of visually guided saccades.