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Brain keeps eye on performance

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4:25pm, January 8, 2001

Comedic-movie spy Austin Powers blurts out, "Oh, behave," to evil wrongdoers and, "Yeah, baby," when justice and Beatles-era fashions prevail. A brain area known to control shifts in eye gaze similarly registers an "Oh, behave" response after errors in a visual task and a "Yeah, baby" reaction after successes--at least in monkeys--a new study finds.

This frontal-brain region, called the supplementary eye field, lies within a larger neural system devoted to regulating one's behavior, proposes a team led by psychologist Jeffrey D. Schall of Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

Schall and his colleagues trained two monkeys to stare at a spot in the center of a computer screen and then shift their gaze to a spot that appeared elsewhere when the central spot vanished. On some trials, the central spot reappeared quickly, signaling the monkeys to cancel the shift in gaze.

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