• Microsaccade generation requires a foveal anchor

      Otero-Millan, J.; Langston, R.E.; Costela, F.; Macknik, S.L.; Martinez-Conde, S.; University of Arizona (International Group for Eye Movement Research, 2019)
      Visual scene characteristics can affect various aspects of saccade and microsaccade dynam-ics. For example, blank visual scenes are known to elicit diminished saccade and microsac-cade production, compared to natural scenes. Similarly, microsaccades are less frequent in the dark. Yet, the extent to which foveal versus peripheral visual information contribute to microsaccade production remains unclear: because microsaccade directions are biased to-wards covert attention locations, it follows that peripheral visual stimulation could suffice to produce regular microsaccade dynamics, even without foveal stimulation being present. Here we determined the characteristics of microsaccades as a function of foveal and/or pe-ripheral visual stimulation, while human subjects conducted four types of oculomotor tasks (fixation, free viewing, guided viewing and passive viewing). Foveal information was either available, or made unavailable, by the presentation of simulated scotomas. We found foveal stimulation to be critical for microsaccade production, and peripheral stimulation, by itself, to be insufficient to yield normal microsaccades. In each oculomotor task, microsaccade production decreased when scotomas blocked foveal stimulation. Across comparable foveal stimulation conditions, the type of peripheral stimulation (static versus dynamic) moreover affected microsaccade production, with dynamic backgrounds resulting in lower microsac-cadic rates than static backgrounds. These results indicate that a foveal visual anchor is nec-essary for normal microsaccade generation. Whereas peripheral visual stimulation, on its own, does not suffice for normal microsaccade production, it can nevertheless modulate microsaccadic characteristics. These findings extend our current understanding of the links between visual input and ocular motor control, and may therefore help improve the diagno-sis and treatment of ophthalmic conditions that degrade central vision, such as age-related macular degeneration. © 2020, Journal of Eye Movement Research. All rights reserved.