A cortical substrate for memory guided-orienting

Jeffrey C. Erlich, Max Bialek and Carlos D. Brody

Neuron, Volume 72, Issue 2, 330-343


Have you ever heard of the rat frontal eye fields? 

We hadn’t either.  But a literature search revealed a small but fascinating set of papers that suggested that the rat might have a frontal cortical structure homologous to the primate frontal eye field (FEF)!  Why is this exciting?  Because the FEF is a key element in the circuit for spatial attention & memory and for the planning/preparation and execution of orienting movements.  We want to understand the neural mechanisms of these behavioral phenomena using the rat as an animal model, so the “rat FEF” might be a good place to start. 

We set out to test whether this structure, which we call the frontal orienting field (FOF), was involved in memory-guided orienting.  In this task subjects are presented with an auditory cue that indicates which way they should orient to obtain a reward. However, the subjects are only allowed to respond after a delay. The task thus separates the stimulus from the response in the tradition of classic memory-guided tasks.  In primates the FEF is essential for successful performance on these types of tasks.  Using pharmacology and electrophysiology we demonstrated that the rat FOF is required for memory-guided orienting and that neural activity in the FOF predicts the upcoming orienting motion of the rat!

Read the whole story

Orienting fields have been identified in humans, monkeys, cats, owls, and now rats!

Jeffrey C Erlich