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Aarlenne Z. Khan, Philippe Lefèvre, Stephen J. Heinen, Gunnar Blohm; The default allocation of attention is broadly ahead of smooth pursuit. Journal of Vision 2010;10(13):7. doi: 10.1167/10.13.7.
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When moving through our environment, it is vital to preferentially process positions on our future path in order to react quickly to critical situations. During smooth pursuit, attention may be directed ahead with either a focused locus or a broad bias. We examined the 2D spatial extent of attention during a smooth pursuit task using both saccade (SRT) and manual (MRT) reaction times as measures of attentional allocation. Targets were flashed at various locations around current eye position while subjects pursued a moving target. Subjects made a saccade or pressed a button as soon as they perceived the target. Both SRTs and MRTs were shortest to targets flashed ahead of compared to behind the direction of pursuit across half of the visual field ahead of pursuit direction. Furthermore, we found an increase specific to SRTs at small target eccentricities directly ahead of pursuit, which may be related to an additional saccade trigger strategy; small saccades take longer to execute if smooth pursuit brings the eyes close to the target. In summary, both SRTs and MRTs revealed that attention is by default broadly allocated in the visual hemi-field ahead of the line of sight during smooth pursuit eye movements. This attentional bias may serve a predictive purpose for facilitating the processing of upcoming events.
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