Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Frontal eye field (FEF) neurons discharge in response to behaviorally relevant stimuli that are potential targets for saccades. Distinct visual and motor processes have been dissociated in the FEF of macaque monkeys, but little is known about the visual processing capacity of FEF in humans. We used double-pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation [(d)TMS] to investigate the timing of target discrimination during visual conjunction search. We applied dual TMS pulses separated by 40 msec over the right FEF and vertex. These were applied in five timing conditions to sample separate time windows within the first 200 msec of visual processing. (d)TMS impaired search performance, reflected in reduced d′ scores. This effect was limited to a time window between 40 and 80 msec after search array onset. These parameters correspond with single-cell activity in FEF that predicts monkeys' behavioral reports on hit, miss, false alarm, and correct rejection trials. Our findings demonstrate a crucial early role for human FEF in visual target discrimination that is independent of saccade programming.