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Martina Poletti, Michele Rucci; Eye movements under various conditions of image fading. Journal of Vision 2010;10(3):6. doi: 10.1167/10.3.6.
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Under normal viewing conditions, the image on the retina is always in motion. Images fade and may eventually disappear when the physiological motion of the retinal stimulus is reduced or eliminated. According to a widespread theory, microsaccades are responsible for maintaining visibility during fixation. However, while it is clear that the sudden changes in visual input caused by microsaccades are sufficient to restore visibility, it has long been questioned whether this effect might be an epiphenomenon, rather than an important function of microsaccades. In this study, we compared the eye movements measured under conditions that either simulated or induced loss of visibility to those recorded when fading did not occur. Both drifts and microsaccades were unaffected by changes in the stimulus contrast and bandwidth that recreated the percept experienced during image fading. Under retinal stabilization, a condition in which observers reported fading, microsaccade rates decreased, instead of increasing as predicted by the fading prevention hypothesis. While image fading had no influence on oculomotor activity, eye movements were instead strongly modulated by the onset of the stimulus and by the requested precision of fixation. Microsaccades occurred more frequently and were more corrective for preceding drifts during accurate fixation on a cue than during relaxed fixation on a region of the screen. These results do not support a causal relationship between image fading and microsaccade production and show that the precision of required fixation is a major contributor to microsaccades.
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