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Vision Res. 1987;27(3):401-15.

Effects of light and dark environments on macaque and human fixational eye movements.

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Eye Research Institute of Retina Foundation, Boston, MA 02114.


Eye position of two macaques and two humans was recorded while they detected the unpredictable dimming of a fixation spot in a dark or a light environment. Fixational saccades often had complex waveforms that resulted from clustering of two or more saccadic displacements with no intervening drift periods. In the dark, all subjects had low frequencies of saccade clusters (0.15-0.61/sec). Three of the subjects increased the frequency of saccade clusters and decreased the magnitude of the displacements when the task was performed in the normally lighted laboratory. The higher saccade frequencies in the light did not automatically result in greater dispersion of eye position. One of the humans, who had the lowest saccade frequency, was relatively unaffected by the stimulus conditions. The change in stimulus conditions had a more pronounced effect on the fixational eye movements of the macaques than the humans. In the dark, the macaques made saccades mostly down and nasal, but in the light the saccadic displacements occurred over a wider range of angular directions. Mean eye position was higher in the dark than in the light. The humans altered the direction of their saccadic displacements very little and did not change their mean eye position when they switched from a dark to a lighted environment. The influence of a lighted environment is interpreted as an interaction between foveolar and peripheral retinal inputs. The results suggest that fixational saccades may have more than one role, perhaps including stimulation of pathways originating in the peripheral retina. These peripheral field inputs have a stronger effect on the fixational control system of macaques than of humans.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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