Cognitive processes in saccade generation.
Kennard C., Mannan SK., Nachev P., Parton A., Mort DJ., Rees G., Hodgson TL., Husain M.
The analysis of saccades offers an opportunity to study a number of different cognitive processes, such as visuospatial attention, working memory, and volitional conflict. A study of saccades in patients with visuospatial hemineglect, who performed a visual search task, showed repeated fixations on targets previously discovered, yet they often failed to retain the information that a particular target had previously been discovered. High-resolution structural brain scanning showed that this abnormality was due either to a lesion in the right intraparietal sulcus or the right inferior frontal lobe. Detailed analysis of the scanpaths suggested that the former location was associated with an accumulating impairment in remapping target locations across saccades or impaired memory of previously inspected target locations, whereas the latter location was more consistent with a failure to inhibit responses to rightward locations. When combined with a spatial bias to the right, such deficits might explain why many neglect patients often reexamine rightward targets, at the expense of items to their left. The functions of the supplementary eye field (SEF), in the medial frontal lobe, in relation to saccade generation are controversial. A series of studies in a patient with a focal lesion of the right SEF has indicated an important role for the SEF in the rapid self-control of saccadic eye movements and in set-switching (i.e., implementing control in situations of response conflict when ongoing saccadic plans have to be changed rapidly), rather than monitoring errors. In a recent fMRI study of normal subjects, it was shown that the SEF is involved in implementing the resolution of any volitional conflict, whereas other presupplementary motor areas are involved in the generation of volitional plans and processing volitional conflict.