We often look at and sometimes reach for visible targets. Looking at a target is fast and relatively easy. By comparison, reaching for an object is slower and is associated with a larger cost. We hypothesized that, as a result of these differences, abrupt visual onsets may drive the circuits involved in saccade planning more directly and with less intermediate regulation than the circuits involved in reach planning. To test this hypothesis, we recorded discharge activity of neurons in the parietal oculomotor system (area LIP) and in the parietal somatomotor system (area PRR) while monkeys performed a visually guided movement task and a choice task. We found that in the visually guided movement task LIP neurons show a prominent transient response to target onset. PRR neurons also show a transient response, although this response is reduced in amplitude, is delayed, and has a slower rise time compared with LIP. A more striking difference is observed in the choice task. The transient response of PRR neurons is almost completely abolished and replaced with a slow buildup of activity, while the LIP response is merely delayed and reduced in amplitude. Our findings suggest that the oculomotor system is more closely and obligatorily coupled to the visual system, whereas the somatomotor system operates in a more discriminating manner.
- Parietal reach region