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Claudia Cherici, Xutao Kuang, Martina Poletti, Michele Rucci; Precision of sustained fixation in trained and untrained observers. Journal of Vision 2012;12(6):31. doi: 10.1167/12.6.31.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
During visual fixation, microscopic eye movements shift the image on the retina over a large number of photoreceptors. Although these movements have been investigated for almost a century, the amount of retinal image motion they create remains unclear. Currently available estimates rely on assumptions about the probability distributions of eye movements that have never been tested. Furthermore, these estimates were based on data collected with only a few, highly experienced and motivated observers and may not be representative of the instability of naive and inexperienced subjects in experiments that require steady fixation. In this study, we used a high-resolution eye-tracker to estimate the probability distributions of gaze position in a relatively large group of human observers, most of whom were untrained, while they were asked to maintain fixation at the center of a uniform field in the presence/absence of a fixation marker. In all subjects, the probability distribution of gaze position deviated from normality, the underlying assumption of most previous studies. The resulting fixational dispersion of gaze was much larger than previously reported and varied greatly across individuals. Unexpectedly, the precision by which different observers maintained fixation on the marker was best predicted by the properties of ocular drift rather than those of microsaccades. Our results show that, during fixation, the eyes move by larger amounts and at higher speeds than commonly assumed and highlight the importance of ocular drift in maintaining accurate fixation.
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