The goal of this study was to determine whether the activity of neurons in the supplementary eye field (SEF) is sufficient to control saccade initiation in macaque monkeys performing a saccade countermanding (stop signal) task. As previously observed, many neurons in the SEF increase the discharge rate before saccade initiation. However, when saccades are canceled in response to a stop signal, effectively no neurons with presaccadic activity display discharge rate modulation early enough to contribute to saccade cancellation. Moreover, SEF neurons do not exhibit a specific threshold discharge rate that could trigger saccade initiation. Yet, we observed more subtle relations between SEF activation and saccade production. The activity of numerous SEF neurons was correlated with response time and varied with sequential adjustments in response latency. Trials in which monkeys canceled or produced a saccade in a stop signal trial were distinguished by a modest difference in discharge rate of these SEF neurons before stop signal or target presentation. These findings indicate that neurons in the SEF, in contrast to counterparts in the frontal eye field and superior colliculus, do not contribute directly and immediately to the initiation of visually guided saccades. However the SEF may proactively regulate saccade production by biasing the balance between gaze-holding and gazeshifting based on prior performance and anticipated task requirements.
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