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Sarah Koopman, Lily Tsoi, Jeremy Wilmer; Keep your eye on the ball: Watching and playing sports linked to smooth pursuit precision. Journal of Vision 2011;11(11):528. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/11.11.528.
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Although smooth pursuit eye movements, used to keep a moving object on the fovea, were presumably beneficial to those species that evolved them, we know little of their importance in modern society. Given that some people smoothly pursue moving objects more precisely than others (Wilmer & Nakayama, 2007), if precise smooth pursuit is important for a task, individuals with more precise pursuit should perform that task better. In order to investigate the potential importance of smooth pursuit, we studied smooth pursuit eye movements in relation to a wide array of experiences ranging from sports and video game playing to reading and watching television, in a large sample of 70 participants. To measure smooth pursuit precision, participants pursued dot targets of various speeds while an eye tracker recorded their eye movements. Precision was calculated based on the correlation between dot speed and eye speed following the initial catch-up saccade (Wilmer & Nakayama, 2007). Participants also answered questions about their experiences in activities involving vision. Smooth pursuit precision did not correlate with time spent driving, reading, watching television, or using a computer. However, participants who had played sports had higher precision than those who had not played sports. Interestingly, participants who watched sports live had more precise pursuit than those who did not watch sports live, yet participants who watched sports on television had no more precise pursuit than those who did not watch sports on television. Together, these findings document a clear relationship between precise smooth pursuit and athletic involvement, raising the possibility that either precise smooth pursuit contributes to athletic involvement or athletic involvement contributes to smooth pursuit precision. Wilmer, J. B., Nakayama, K. (2007). Two distinct visual motion mechanisms for smooth pursuit: Evidence from individual differences. Neuron, 54:987–1000.
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