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Cécile Vullings, Laurent Madelain; Discriminative control of saccade latencies. Journal of Vision 2019;19(3):16. doi: 10.1167/19.3.16.
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Recent studies have demonstrated that saccadic reaction times (SRTs) are influenced by the temporal regularities of dynamic environments (Vullings & Madelain, 2018). Here, we ask whether discriminative control (i.e., the possibility to use external stimuli signaling the future state of the environment) of latencies in a search task might be established using reinforcement contingencies. Eight participants made saccades within 80–750 ms toward a target displayed among distractors. We constructed two latency classes, “short” and “long,” using the first and last quartiles of the individual baseline distributions. We then used a latency-contingent display paradigm in which finding the visual target among other items was made contingent upon specific SRTs. For a first group, the postsaccadic target was displayed only following short latencies with leftward saccades, and following long latencies with rightward saccades. The opposite was true for a second group. When short- and long-latency saccades were reinforced (i.e., the target was displayed) depending on the saccade direction, median latencies differed by 74 ms on average (all outside the 98% null hypothesis confidence intervals). Posttraining, in the absence of reinforcement, we still observed strong differences in latency distributions, averaging 64 ms for leftward versus rightward saccades. Our results demonstrate the discriminative control of SRTs, further supporting the effects of reinforcement learning for saccade. This study reveals that saccade triggering is finely controlled by learned temporal and spatial properties of the environment using predictive mechanisms.
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