The role of supplementary eye field in goal-directed behavior

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8 Scopus citations


The medial frontal cortex has been suggested to play a role in the control, monitoring, and selection of behavior. The supplementary eye field (SEF) is a cortical area within medial frontal cortex that is involved in the regulation of eye movements. Neurophysiological studies in the SEF of macaque monkeys have systematically investigated the role of SEF in various behavioral control and monitoring functions. Inhibitory control studies indicate that SEF neurons do not directly participate in the initiation of eye movements. Instead, recent value-based decision making studies suggest that the SEF participates in the control of eye movements by representing the context-dependent action values of all currently possible oculomotor behaviors. These action value signals in SEF would be useful in directing the activity distribution in more primary oculomotor areas, to guide decisions towards behaviorally optimal choices. SEF also does not participate in the fast, inhibitory control of eye movements in response to sudden changes in the task requirements. Instead, it participates in the long-term regulation of oculomotor excitability to adjust the speed-accuracy tradeoff. The context-dependent control signals found in SEF (including the action value signals) have to be learned and continuously adjusted in response to changes in the environment. This is likely the function of the large number of different response monitoring and evaluation signals in SEF. In conclusion, the overall function of SEF in goal-directed behavior seems to be the learning of context-dependent rules that allow predicting the likely consequences of different eye movements. This map of action value signals could be used so that eye movements are selected that best fulfill the current long-term goal of the agent.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)118-128
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Physiology Paris
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - Feb 1 2015


  • Control
  • Decision making
  • Evaluation
  • Frontal cortex
  • Primate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Physiology (medical)


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