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Brostek, Lukas; Eggert, Thomas and Glasauer, Stefan (2017): Gain Control in Predictive Smooth Pursuit Eye Movements: Evidence for an Acceleration-Based Predictive Mechanism. In: Eneuro, Vol. 4, No. 3, e0343-16.2017

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The smooth pursuit eye movement system incorporates various control features enabling adaptation to specific tracking situations. In this work, we analyzed the interplay between two of these mechanisms: gain control and predictive pursuit. We tested human responses to high-frequency perturbations during step-ramp pursuit, as well as the pursuit of a periodically moving target. For the latter task, we found a nonlinear interaction between perturbation response and carrier acceleration. Responses to perturbations where the initial perturbation acceleration was contradirectional to carrier acceleration increased with carrier velocity, in a manner similar to that observed during step-ramp pursuit. In contrast, responses to perturbations with ipsidirectional initial perturbation and carrier acceleration were large for all carrier velocities. Modeling the pursuit system suggests that gain control and short-term prediction are separable elements. The observed effect may be explained by combining the standard gain control mechanism with a derivative-based short-term predictive mechanism. The nonlinear interaction between perturbation and carrier acceleration can be reproduced by assuming a signal saturation, which is acting on the derivative of the target velocity signal. Our results therefore argue for the existence of an internal estimate of target acceleration as a basis for a simple yet efficient short-term predictive mechanism.

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