Visual search is coordinated adaptively by monitoring and predicting the environment. The supplementary eye field (SEF) plays a role in oculomotor control and outcome evaluation. However, it is not clear whether the SEF is involved in adjusting behavioral modes based on preceding feedback. We hypothesized that the SEF drives exploration-exploitation transitions by generating “surprise signals” or rectified prediction errors, which reflect differences between predicted and actual outcomes. To test this hypothesis, we introduced an oculomotor two-target search task in which monkeys were required to find two valid targets among four identical stimuli. After they detected the valid targets, they exploited their knowledge of target locations to obtain a reward by choosing the two valid targets alternately. Behavioral analysis revealed two distinct types of oculomotor search patterns: exploration and exploitation. We found that two types of SEF neurons represented the surprise signals. The error-surprise neurons showed enhanced activity when the monkey received the first error feedback after the target pair change, and this activity was followed by an exploratory oculomotor search pattern. The correct-surprise neurons showed enhanced activity when the monkey received the first correct feedback after an error trial, and this increased activity was followed by an exploitative, fixed-type search pattern. Our findings suggest that errorsurprise neurons are involved in the transition from exploitation to exploration and that correct-surprise neurons are involved in the transition from exploration to exploitation.
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