Article of the Month, July 2018 (Joshua's lab)

July 9, 2018

Smooth pursuit eye movement of monkeys naive to laboratory setups with pictures and artificial stimuli


Authors: Botschko, Y., Yarkoni, M. & Joshua, M. (Mati Joshua's lab)

Published in Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience on April 2018


When animal behavior is studied in a laboratory environment, the animals are often extensively trained to shape their behavior. A crucial question is whether the behavior observed after training is part of the natural repertoire of the animal or represents an outlier in the animal’s natural capabilities. This can be investigated by assessing the extent to which the target behavior is manifested during the initial stages of training and the time course of learning. We explored this issue by examining smooth pursuit eye movements in monkeys naïve to smooth pursuit tasks. We recorded the eye movements of monkeys from the first days of training on a step-ramp paradigm. We used bright spots, monkey pictures and scrambled versions of the pictures as moving targets. During the initial stages of training, the pursuit initiation was largest for the monkey pictures and in some direction conditions close to target velocity. Two weeks of training increased the pursuit eye velocity in all stimulus conditions, whereas further extensive training enhanced pursuit slightly more. Thus, smooth pursuit in the step-ramp paradigm appears to be part of the natural repertoire of monkeys’ behavior and training adjusts monkeys’ natural predisposed behavior.