Nine patients with chronic, unilateral lesions of the dorso-lateral prefrontal cortex including the frontal eye fields (FEF) made saccades toward contralesional and ipsilesional fields. The saccades were either voluntarily directed in response to arrows in the center of a visual display, or were reflexively summoned by a peripheral visual signal. Saccade latencies were compared to those made by seven neurologic control patients with chronic, unilateral lesions of dorsolateral prefrontal cortex sparing the FEF, and by 13 normal control subjects. In both the normal and neurologic control subjects, reflexive saccades had shorter Latencies than voluntary saccades. In the FEF lesion patients, voluntary saccades had longer latencies toward the contralesional field than toward the ipsilesional field. The opposite pattern was found for reflexive saccades: latencies of saccades to targets in the contralesional field were shorter than saccades summoned to ipsilesional targets. Reflexive saccades toward the ipsilesional field had abnormally prolonged latencies; they were comparable to the latencies observed for voluntary Saccades. The effect of FEF lesions on saccacles contrasted with those observed in a second experiment requiring a key press response: FEF lesion patients were slower in making key press responses to signals detected in the contralesional field. To assess covert attention and preparatory set the effects of precues providing advance information were measured in both saccade and key press experiments. Neither patient group showed any deficiency in using precues to shift attention or to prepare saccades.

The FEF facilitates the generation of voluntary saccatles and also inhibits reflexive saccades to exogenous signals. FEF lesions may disinhibit the ipsilesional midbrain which in turn may inhibit the opposite colliculus to slow reflexive saccades toward the ipsilesional field.

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