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Wollenberg, Luca ORCID: 0000-0002-3874-7949; Deubel, Heiner; Szinte, Martin ORCID: 0000-0003-2040-4005 (March 2019): Investigating the Deployment of Visual Attention Before Accurate and Averaging Saccades via Eye Tracking and Assessment of Visual Sensitivity. In: JoVE, No. 145, e59162
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Abstract

This experimental protocol was designed to investigate whether visual attention is obligatorily deployed at the endpoint of saccades. To this end, we recorded the eye position of human participants engaged in a saccade task via eye tracking and assessed visual orientation discrimination performance at various locations during saccade preparation. Importantly, instead of using a single saccade target paradigm for which the saccade endpoint typically coincides roughly with the target, this protocol comprised the presentation of two nearby saccade targets, leading to a distinct spatial dissociation between target locations and saccade endpoint on a substantial number of trials. The paradigm allowed us to compare presaccadic visual discrimination performance at the endpoint of accurate saccades (landing at one of the saccade targets) and of averaging saccades (landing at an intermediate location in between the two targets). We observed a selective enhancement of visual sensitivity at the endpoint of accurate saccades but not at the endpoint of averaging saccades. Rather, before the execution of averaging saccades, visual sensitivity was equally enhanced at both targets, suggesting that saccade averaging follows from unresolved attentional selection among the saccade targets. These results argue against a mandatory coupling between visual attention and saccade programming based on a direct measure of presaccadic visual sensitivity rather than saccadic reaction times, which have been used in other protocols to draw similar conclusions. While our protocol provides a useful framework to investigate the relationship between visual attention and saccadic eye movements at the behavioral level, it can also be combined with electrophysiological measures to extend insights at the neuronal level.