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Alexander C. Schütz, Dirk Kerzel, David Souto; Saccadic adaptation induced by a perceptual task. Journal of Vision 2014;14(5):4. doi: 10.1167/14.5.4.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
The human motor system and muscles are subject to fluctuations in the short and long term. Motor adaptation is classically thought of as a low-level process that compensates for the error between predicted and executed movements in order to maintain movement accuracy. Contrary to a low-level account, accurate movements might be only a means to support high-level behavioral and perceptual goals. To isolate the influence of high-level goals in adaptation of saccadic eye movements, we manipulated perceptual task requirements in the absence of low-level errors. Observers had to discriminate one character within a peripheral array of characters. Between trials, the location of this character within the array was changed. This manipulation led to an immediate strategic change and a slower, gradual adaptation of saccade amplitude and direction. These changes had a similar magnitude to classical saccade adaptation and transferred at least partially to reactive saccades without a perceptual task. These results suggest that a perceptual task can modify oculomotor commands by generating a top-down error signal in saccade maps just like a bottom-up visual position error. Hence saccade adaptation not only maintains saccadic targeting accuracy, but also optimizes gaze behavior for the behavioral goal, showing that perception shapes even low-level oculomotor mechanisms.
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