Neurons in the substantia nigra pars reticulata (SNr) are known to encode saccadic eye movements within some, but not all, behavioral contexts. However, the precise contextual factors that effect the modulations of nigral activity are still uncertain. To further examine the effect of behavioral context on the SNr, we recorded the activity of 72 neurons while monkeys made saccades during a delayed saccade task and during periods of free viewing. We quantified and compared the movement fields of each neuron for saccades made under three different conditions: 1) spontaneous saccades, which shifted gaze during periods of free viewing when no stimuli were presented and no reinforcements were delivered; 2) fixational saccades, which brought gaze into alignment with a fixation target at the start of a delayed saccade trial, were necessary for trial completion, but were not directly followed by reinforcement; and 3) terminal saccades, which brought gaze into alignment with a visual target at the end of a delayed saccade trial and were directly followed by reinforcement. For three of the four SNr neuron classes, saccade- related modulations were only present before terminal saccades. For the fourth class, discrete pausers, saccade-related modulations were substantially larger for terminal saccades than for fixational saccades, and modulations were absent for spontaneous saccades. These results and other recent work on the basal ganglia suggest that some saccade-related signals in the SNr may be influenced by the reinforcement associated with a particular saccadic eye movement.
ASJC Scopus subject areas