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Wollenberg, Luca ORCID: 0000-0002-3874-7949; Hanning, Nina M. ORCID: 0000-0002-3640-1151; Deubel, Heiner (September 2020): Visual attention and eye movement control during oculomotor competition. In: Journal of Vision, Vol. 20, No. 9, 16: pp. 1-17
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Abstract

Saccadic eye movements are typically preceded by selective shifts of visual attention. Recent evidence, however, suggests that oculomotor selection can occur in the absence of attentional selection when saccades erroneously land in between nearby competing objects (saccade averaging). This study combined a saccade task with a visual discrimination task to investigate saccade target selection during episodes of competition between a saccade target and a nearby distractor. We manipulated the spatial predictability of target and distractor locations and asked participants to execute saccades upon variably delayed go-signals. This allowed us to systematically investigate the capacity to exert top-down eye movement control (as reflected in saccade endpoints) based on the spatiotemporal dynamics of visual attention during movement preparation (measured as visual sensitivity). Our data demonstrate that the predictability of target and distractor locations, despite not affecting the deployment of visual attention prior to movement preparation, largely improved the accuracy of short-latency saccades. Under spatial uncertainty, a short go-signal delay likewise enhanced saccade accuracy substantially, which was associated with a more selective deployment of attentional resources to the saccade target. Moreover, we observed a systematic relationship between the deployment of visual attention and saccade accuracy, with visual discrimination performance being significantly enhanced at the saccade target relative to the distractor only before the execution of saccades accurately landing at the saccade target. Our results provide novel insights linking top-down eye movement control to the operation of selective visual attention during movement preparation.