Pupil dilation is known to be an index of cognitive effort. Nevertheless, our lack of knowledge of the precise dynamics through which pupil size and activity of the medial prefrontal cortex are conjugated during cognitive tasks highlights the need for its further investigation before, during, and after changes in pupil size. Here, we tested whether pupil dynamics are related to the activity of the supplementary eye field (SEF) during a mixed pro/anti-saccade oculomotor task in two macaque monkeys. We used functional ultrasound imaging (fUS) to examine temporal changes in brain activity at the 0.1-s time scale and 0.1-mm spatial resolution in relation to behavioral performance and pupil dynamics. By combining the pupil signals and real-time imaging of NHP during cognitive tasks, we were able to infer localized CBV responses within a restricted part of the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, referred to as the SEF, an area in which anti-saccade preparation activity is also recorded. Inversely, SEF neurovascular activity measured by fUS imaging was found to be a robust predictor of specific variations in pupil diameter over short and long time scales. Furthermore, we directly manipulated pupil diameter and CBV in the SEF using reward and cognitive effort. These results demonstrate that the SEF is an underestimated but pivotal cortical area for the monitoring and implementation of cognitive effort signals.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience