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Anna Belardinelli, Madeleine Y. Stepper, Martin V. Butz; It's in the eyes: Planning precise manual actions before execution. Journal of Vision 2016;16(1):18. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/16.1.18.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
It is well-known that our eyes typically fixate those objects in a scene, with which interactions are about to unfold. During manual interactions, our eyes usually anticipate the next subgoal and thus serve top-down, goal-driven information extraction requirements, probably driven by a schema-based task representation. On the other hand, motor control research concerning object manipulations has extensively demonstrated how grasping choices are often influenced by deeper considerations about the final goal of manual interactions. Here we show that also these deeper considerations are reflected in early eye fixation behavior, significantly before the hand makes contact with the object. In this study, subjects were asked to either pretend to drink out of the presented object or to hand it over to the experimenter. The objects were presented upright or upside down, thus affording a thumb-up (prone) or a thumb-down (supine) grasp. Eye fixation data show a clear anticipatory preference for the region where the index finger is going to be placed. Indeed, fixations highly correlate with the final index finger position, thus subserving the planning of the actual manual action. Moreover, eye fixations reveal several orders of manual planning: Fixation distributions do not only depend on the object orientation but also on the interaction task. These results suggest a fully embodied, bidirectional sensorimotor coupling of eye-hand coordination: The eyes help in planning and determining the actual manual object interaction, considering where to grasp the presented object in the light of the orientation and type of the presented object and the actual manual task to be accomplished with the object.
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