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Prog Brain Res. 2006;154:193-209.

Fixational eye movements and motion perception.

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  • 1Department of Life Sciences, University of Tokyo, 3-8-1 Komaba, Meguro-ku, Tokyo 153-8902, Japan.


Small eye movements are necessary for maintained visibility of the static scene, but at the same time they randomly oscillate the retinal image, so the visual system must compensate for such motions to yield the stable visual world. According to the theory of visual stabilization based on retinal motion signals, objects are perceived to move only if their retinal images make spatially differential motions with respect to some baseline movement probably due to eye movements. Motion illusions favoring this theory are demonstrated, and psychophysical as well as brain-imaging studies on the illusions are reviewed. It is argued that perceptual stability is established through interactions between motion-energy detection at an early stage and spatial differentiation of motion at a later stage. As such, image oscillations originating in fixational eye movements go unnoticed perceptually, and it is also shown that image oscillations are, though unnoticed, working as a limiting factor of motion detection. Finally, the functional importance of non-differential, global motion signals are discussed in relation to visual stability during large-scale eye movements as well as heading estimation.

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