Reward action in the initiation of smooth pursuit eye movements

Mati Joshua*, Stephen G. Lisberger

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Reward has a powerful influence on motor behavior. To probe how and where reward systems alter motor behavior, we studied smooth pursuit eye movements in monkeys trained to associate the color of a visual cue with the size of the reward to be issued at the end of the target motion. When the tracking task presented two different colored targets that moved orthogonally, monkeys biased the initiation of pursuit toward the direction of motion of the target that led to larger reward. The bias was larger than expected given the modest effects of reward size on tracking of single targets. Experiments with three different reward sizes suggested that the bias afforded a given target depends mainly on the size of the larger reward. To analyze the effect of reward on directional learning in pursuit, monkeys tracked a single moving target that changed direction 250 ms after the onset of motion. Expectation of a larger reward led to a larger learned eye movement during the acquisition of the learned response and during subsequent probes of what had been learned, implying that reward influenced the expression rather than the acquisition of learning. The specific effects of reward size on learning and two-target stimuli imply that the site of reward modulation is at a level where multiple target motions compete for control of eye movement, downstream from sensory processing and learning and upstream from final motor processing.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)2856-2867
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number8
StatePublished - 22 Feb 2012
Externally publishedYes


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