Landmark-Centered Coding in Frontal Cortex Visual Responses
39 Pages Posted: 20 Nov 2020 Publication Status: Review CompleteMore...
Visual landmarks influence spatial cognition, navigation and goal-directed behavior, but their influence on visual coding in sensorimotor systems is poorly understood. We hypothesized that visual responses in frontal cortex gaze control areas encode potential targets in an intermediate gaze-centered / landmark-centered reference frame that might depend on specific target-landmark configurations rather than a global mechanism. We tested this hypothesis by recording neural activity in the frontal eye fields (FEF) and supplementary eye fields (SEF) while head-unrestrained macaques engaged in a memory-delay gaze task. Visual response fields (the area of visual space where targets modulate activity) were tested for each neuron in the presence of a background landmark placed at one of four oblique configurations relative to the target stimulus. 102 of 312 FEF and 43 of 256 SEF neurons showed spatially tuned response fields in this task. We then fit these data against a mathematical continuum between a gaze-centered model and a landmark-centered model. When we pooled data across the entire dataset for each neuron, our response field fits did not deviate significantly from the gaze-centered model. However, when we fit response fields separately for each target-landmark configuration, the best fits shifted (mean 37% / 40%) toward landmark-centered coding in FEF / SEF respectively. This confirmed an intermediate gaze / landmark-centered mechanism dependent on local (configuration-dependent) interactions. Overall, these data show that external landmarks influence prefrontal visual responses, likely helping to stabilize gaze goals in the presence of variable eye and head orientations.
Keywords: Landmark, Frontal Cortex, Gaze system, Allocentric, Egocentric, Sensory responses
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