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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 (2017): Visual attention is not always spatially coupled to subsequent oculomotor program. bioRxiv

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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 saccade towards one of two nearby, competing saccade cues. The spatial distribution of visual attention was determined using oriented Gabor stimuli presented either at the cue locations, between them or at several other equidistant locations. Results demonstrate that accurate saccades towards one of the cues were associated with presaccadic enhancement of visual sensitivity at the respective saccade endpoint compared to the non-saccaded cue location. In contrast, averaging saccades, landing between the two cues, were not associated with attentional facilitation at the saccade endpoint, ruling out an obligatory coupling of attentional deployment to the oculomotor program. Rather, attention before averaging saccades was equally distributed to the two cued locations. Taken together, our results reveal a spatial dissociation of visual attention and saccade programming. They 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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