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J Vis. 2009 May 19;9(5):19.1-15. doi: 10.1167/9.5.19.

Free viewing of dynamic stimuli by humans and monkeys.

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  • 1Neuroscience Graduate Program, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA.


Due to extensive homologies, monkeys provide a sophisticated animal model of human visual attention. However, for electrophysiological recording in behaving animals simplified stimuli and controlled eye position are traditionally used. To validate monkeys as a model for human attention during realistic free viewing, we contrasted human (n = 5) and monkey (n = 5) gaze behavior using 115 natural and artificial video clips. Monkeys exhibited broader ranges of saccadic endpoints and amplitudes and showed differences in fixation and intersaccadic intervals. We compared tendencies of both species to gaze toward scene elements with similar low-level visual attributes using two computational models--luminance contrast and saliency. Saliency was more predictive of both human and monkey gaze, predicting human saccades better than monkey saccades overall. Quantifying interobserver gaze consistency revealed that while humans were highly consistent, monkeys were more heterogeneous and were best predicted by the saliency model. To address these discrepancies, we further analyzed high-interest gaze targets--those locations simultaneously chosen by at least two monkeys. These were on average very similar to human gaze targets, both in terms of specific locations and saliency values. Although substantial quantitative differences were revealed, strong similarities existed between both species, especially when focusing analysis onto high-interest targets.

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