We tested the hypothesis that frontal eye field (FEF) visual activity integrates visual information with a template of a target by examining whether a target that is not present in a search display influences the target selection in FEF. Neural activity was recorded in FEF of macaque monkeys performing visual search for a single-ton target defined by color or direction of motion. The target remained constant throughout, but not across experimental sessions. Trials with distractors dissimilar to the target were interleaved with trials with distractors similar to the target. The hypothesis was tested by measuring the magnitude of activity in randomly inter-leaved trials with the target absent and only distractors in the display. We found that the response to the distractors was significantly greater when presented with displays consisting of distractors that resembled the absent target than when presented with displays consisting of distractors most different from the absent target. The influence of target-distractor similarity on FEF activity was also observed when the target was present, as reported previously. These data suggest that a template of the absent target can influence the selection process in FEF. This provides more direct evidence that FEF integrates visual information and knowledge of the target to determine the goal of a saccade.
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