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Cortical mechanisms of smooth eye movements revealed by dynamic covariations of neural and behavioral responses

Schoppik, David; Nagel, Katherine; Lisberger, Stephen

Neural activity in the frontal eye fields controls smooth pursuit eye movements, but the relationship between single neuron responses, cortical population responses, and eye movements is not well understood. We describe an approach to dynamically link trial-to-trial fluctuations in neural responses to parallel variations in pursuit and demonstrate that individual neurons predict eye velocity fluctuations at particular moments during the course of behavior, while the population of neurons collectively tiles the entire duration of the movement. The analysis also reveals the strength of correlations in the eye movement predictions derived from pairs of simultaneously recorded neurons and suggests a simple model of cortical processing. These findings constrain the primate cortical code for movement, suggesting that either a few neurons are sufficient to drive pursuit at any given time or that many neurons operate collectively at each moment with remarkably little variation added to motor command signals downstream from the cortex.

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