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Mario Dalmaso, Luigi Castelli, Pietro Scatturin, Giovanni Galfano; Working memory load modulates microsaccadic rate. Journal of Vision 2017;17(3):6. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/17.3.6.
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Microsaccades are tiny eye movements that individuals perform unconsciously during fixation. Despite that the nature and the functions of microsaccades are still lively debated, recent evidence has shown an association between these micro eye movements and higher order cognitive processes. Here, in two experiments, we specifically focused on working memory and addressed whether differential memory load could be reflected in a modulation of microsaccade dynamics. In Experiment 1, participants memorized a numerical sequence composed of either two (low-load condition) or five digits (high-load condition), appearing at fixation. The results showed a reduction in the microsaccadic rate in the high-load compared to the low-load condition. In Experiment 2, five red or green digits were always presented at fixation. Participants either memorized the color (low-load condition) or the five digits (high-load condition). Hence, visual stimuli were exactly the same in both conditions. Consistent with Experiment 1, microsaccadic rate was lower in the high-load than in the low-load condition. Overall, these findings reveal that an engagement of working memory can have an impact on microsaccadic rate, consistent with the view that microsaccade generation is pervious to top-down processes.
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