A functional and structural investigation of the human fronto-basal volitional saccade network

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Abstract

Almost all cortical areas are connected to the subcortical basal ganglia (BG) through parallel recurrent inhibitory and excitatory loops, exerting volitional control over automatic behavior. As this model is largely based on non-human primate research, we used high resolution functional MRI and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) to investigate the functional and structural organization of the human (pre)frontal cortico-basal network controlling eye movements. Participants performed saccades in darkness, pro- and antisaccades and observed stimuli during fixation. We observed several bilateral functional subdivisions along the precentral sulcus around the human frontal eye fields (FEF): a medial and lateral zone activating for saccades in darkness, a more fronto-medial zone preferentially active for ipsilateral antisaccades, and a large anterior strip along the precentral sulcus activating for visual stimulus presentation during fixation. The supplementary eye fields (SEF) were identified along the medial wall containing all aforementioned functions. In the striatum, the BG area receiving almost all cortical input, all saccade related activation was observed in the putamen, previously considered a skeletomotor striatal subdivision. Activation elicited by the cue instructing pro or antisaccade trials was clearest in the medial FEF and right putamen. DTI fiber tracking revealed that the subdivisions of the human FEF complex are mainly connected to the putamen, in agreement with the fMRI findings. The present findings demonstrate that the human FEF has functional subdivisions somewhat comparable to non-human primates. However, the connections to and activation in the human striatum preferentially involve the putamen, not the caudate nucleus as is reported for monkeys. This could imply that fronto-striatal projections for the oculomotor system are fundamentally different between humans and monkeys. Alternatively, there could be a bias in published reports of monkey studies favoring the caudate nucleus over the putamen in the search for oculomotor functions.

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Neggers, S. F. W., van Diepen, R. M., Zandbelt, B. B., Vink, M., Mandl, R. C. W., & Gutteling, T. P. (2012). A functional and structural investigation of the human fronto-basal volitional saccade network. PLoS ONE, 7(1). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0029517

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