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Vision Res. 2005 Dec;45(27):3391-401. Epub 2005 Aug 30.

The urgency to look: prompt saccades to the benefit of perception.

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Department of Neurological and Vision Sciences, University of Verona, Italy.


Researchers have shown that the promptness to initiate a saccade is modulated by countless factors pertaining to the visual context and the task. However, experiments on saccadic eye movements are usually designed in such a way that oculomotor performance is dissociated from the natural role of saccades, namely that of making crucial perceptual information rapidly available for high-resolution, foveal analysis. Here, we demonstrate that the requirement to perform a difficult perceptual judgment at the saccade landing location can reduce saccadic latency (by >15%) and increase saccadic peak velocity. Importantly, the effect cannot be explained in terms of arousal, as latency changes are specific to the location where the perceptual judgement is required. These results indicate that mechanisms for voluntary saccade initiation are under the powerful indirect control of perceptual goals.

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