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J Vis. 2010 Sep 15;10(11):13. doi: 10.1167/10.11.13.

(Un-) coupling gaze and attention outside central vision.

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Center for Mind/Brain Sciences, Trento University, Italy.


In normal vision, shifts of attention and gaze are tightly coupled. Here we ask if this coupling affects performance also when central vision is not available. To this aim, we trained normal-sighted participants to perform a visual search task while vision was restricted to a gaze-contingent viewing window ("forced field location") either in the left, right, upper, or lower visual field. Gaze direction was manipulated within a continuous visual search task that required leftward, rightward, upward, or downward eye movements. We found no general performance advantage for a particular part of the visual field or for a specific gaze direction. Rather, performance depended on the coordination of visual attention and eye movements, with impaired performance when sustained attention and gaze have to be moved in opposite directions. Our results suggest that during early stages of central visual field loss, the optimal location for the substitution of foveal vision does not depend on the particular retinal location alone, as has previously been thought, but also on the gaze direction required by the task the patient wishes to perform.

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