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Wollenberg, Luca ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-3874-7949; Deubel, Heiner and Szinte, Martin ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-2040-4005 (2018): Visual attention is not deployed at the endpoint of averaging saccades.
In: PLOS Biology 16(6), e2006548 [PDF, 1MB]


The premotor theory of attention postulates that spatial attention arises from the activation of saccade areas and that the deployment of attention is the consequence of motor programming. Yet attentional and oculomotor processes have been shown to be dissociable at the neuronal level in covert attention tasks. To investigate a potential dissociation at the behavioral level, we instructed human participants to move their eyes (saccade) towards 1 of 2 nearby, competing saccade targets. The spatial distribution of visual attention was determined using oriented visual stimuli presented either at the target locations, between them, or at several other equidistant locations. Results demonstrate that accurate saccades towards one of the targets were associated with presaccadic enhancement of visual sensitivity at the respective saccade endpoint compared to the nonsaccaded target location. In contrast, averaging saccades, landing between the 2 targets, were not associated with attentional facilitation at the saccade endpoint. Rather, attention before averaging saccades was equally deployed at the 2 target locations. Taken together, our results reveal that visual attention is not obligatorily coupled to the endpoint of a subsequent saccade. Rather, our results suggest that the oculomotor program depends on the state of attentional selection before saccade onset and that saccade averaging arises from unresolved attentional selection.

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