Fixating a small dot is a universal technique for stabilizing gaze in vision and eye movement research, and for clinical imaging of normal and diseased retinae. During fixation, microsaccades and drifts occur that presumably benefit vision, yet microsaccades compromise image stability and usurp task attention. Previous work suggested that microsaccades and smooth pursuit catch-up saccades are controlled by similar mechanisms. This, and other previous work showing fewer catch-up saccades during smooth pursuit of peripheral targets suggested that a peripheral target might similarly mitigate microsaccades. Here, human observers fixated one of three stimuli: a small central dot, the center of a peripheral, circular array of small dots, or a central/peripheral stimulus created by combining the two. The microsaccade rate was significantly lower with the peripheral array than with the dot. However, inserting the dot into the array increased the microsaccade rate to single-dot levels. Drift speed also decreased with the peripheral array, both with and without the central dot. Eye position variability was higher with the array than with the composite stimulus. The results suggest that analogous to the foveal pursuit, foveating a stationary target engages the saccadic system likely compromising retinal-image stability. In contrast, fixating a peripheral stimulus improves stability, thereby affording better retinal imaging and releasing attention for experimental tasks.
Publication Type: Journal Article
Authors: Scott NJ Watamaniuk; Jeremy B Badler; Stephen J Heinen
Publication: Scientific Reports, Volume 23, Issue 13, p.7426 (2023)
Project URL: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-023-34066-2