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Martijn J. Schut, Nathan Van der Stoep, Albert Postma, Stefan Van der Stigchel; The cost of making an eye movement: A direct link between visual working memory and saccade execution. Journal of Vision 2017;17(6):15. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/17.6.15.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
To facilitate visual continuity across eye movements, the visual system must presaccadically acquire information about the future foveal image. Previous studies have indicated that visual working memory (VWM) affects saccade execution. However, the reverse relation, the effect of saccade execution on VWM load is less clear. To investigate the causal link between saccade execution and VWM, we combined a VWM task and a saccade task. Participants were instructed to remember one, two, or three shapes and performed either a No Saccade-, a Single Saccade- or a Dual (corrective) Saccade-task. The results indicate that items stored in VWM are reported less accurately if a single saccade—or a dual saccade—task is performed next to retaining items in VWM. Importantly, the loss of response accuracy for items retained in VWM by performing a saccade was similar to committing an extra item to VWM. In a second experiment, we observed no cost of executing a saccade for auditory working memory performance, indicating that executing a saccade exclusively taxes the VWM system. Our results suggest that the visual system presaccadically stores the upcoming retinal image, which has a similar VWM load as committing one extra item to memory and interferes with stored VWM content. After the saccade, the visual system can retrieve this item from VWM to evaluate saccade accuracy. Our results support the idea that VWM is a system which is directly linked to saccade execution and promotes visual continuity across saccades.
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