Candidate Review:

Good Looking…Better Looking! Performance Monitoring and Behavioral Adjustments in the Oculomotor System

David Godlove

Neuroscience Graduate Program, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, U1205 Medical Center North, Nashville, TN 37232, USA.
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Abstract | Full Text | PDF

Abstract | Executive control refers to the process of guiding action toward goals. Successful goal seeking agents cancel actions when changing circumstances render them inappropriate. Adaptive agents also track the frequency with which reinforcement is attained in order to adjust strategies when gains are too low. Response inhibition, or the ability to cancel action, has classically been investigated using a stop-signal task. Performance monitoring, or tracking gains and making behavioral adjustments, has been investigated using tasks with variable reward contingencies. These investigations are often carried out by observing monkeys performing saccade tasks. Since the input and output properties of the macaque oculomotor system are understood in comparatively great detail, it provides a simplified and useful model for investigating aspects of executive control. Discoveries suggest that several areas of the frontal and medial cortex are involved in oculomotor control and reward processing, including the frontal eye fields, the supplementary eye fields, and the anterior cingulate cortices. Of these, the supplementary eye fields have been further implicated in implementing behavioral adjustments during complex tasks. Neural activity in these areas, particularly in the anterior cingulate cortex, may contribute to human error related EEG signals. The behavioral relevance and physiological sources of these signals are poorly understood and animal models are sorely needed. Observations of monkeys performing asymmetrically rewarded tasks suggest that the mesencephalic dopamine system and basal ganglia may interact with frontal and medial cortices implementing a broad performance monitoring system.