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J Vis. 2010;10(14):12.

Saccadic latency in deterministic environments: getting back on track after the unexpected happens.

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Department of Optometry and Vision Sciences, The University of Melbourne, Australia.


Saccadic latencies are commonly used to study decision mechanisms. For instance, in a random sequence, saccadic latency to a target depends on how frequently it has recently appeared. However, frequency is not the only factor that determines probability. Here we presented targets to the left or right, either in random sequences or in repeating patterns. Although the frequency of appearing on a given side was identical in each case, latencies for the low-frequency side were significantly shorter for repeating patterns than in random sequences, showing that the system can respond to the deterministic probabilities in such patterns. We then disrupted our patterns episodically, recommencing at a random starting position in the sequence. This significantly increased the latency, which remained high until the low-frequency target in the sequence reappeared, implying that the oculomotor system makes strategic use of low-frequency--but high-information--events to determine the phase of repeating sequences. The deterministic sequences of events in our patterns represent a simple model for the habitual sequences of actions commonly performed in daily life, which, when disrupted, require the engagement of a higher level problem-solving strategy to return us to our previous automated sequence as quickly as possible.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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