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Rolfs, Martin ; Laubrock, Jochen ; Kliegl, Reinhold
Shortening and Prolongation of Saccade Latencies Following Microsaccades
Kurzfassung auf EnglischWhen the eyes fixate at a point in a visual scene, small saccades rapidly shift the image on the retina. The effect of these microsaccades on the latency of subsequent large-scale saccades may be twofold. First, microsaccades are associated with an enhancement of visual perception. Their occurrence during saccade target perception should, thus, decrease saccade latencies. On the
other hand, microsaccades likely indicate activity in fixation-related oculomotor neurons. These represent competitors to saccade-related cells in the interplay of gaze holding and shifting. Consequently, an increase in saccade latencies after microsaccades would be expected. Here, we present evidence for both aspects of microsaccadic impact on saccade latency. In a delayed
response task, participants made saccades to visible or memorized targets. First, microsaccade occurrence up to 50 ms before target disappearance correlated with 18 ms (or 8%) faster saccades to memorized targets. Second, if microsaccades occurred shortly (i.e., < 150 ms) before a saccade was required, saccadic reaction times in visual and memory trials were increased by about 40 ms (or 16%). Hence, microsaccades can have opposite consequences for saccade latencies, pointing at a differential role of these fixational eye movements in preparation of motor programs.
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