Visual Neuroscience

Research Articles

Oculomotor localization relies on a damped representation of saccadic eye displacement in human and nonhuman primates

Paul Dassonvillea1, John Schlaga1 and Madeleine Schlag-Reya1

a1 Brain Research Institute and Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, University of California, Los Angeles


The oculomotor system has long been thought to rely on an accurate representation of eye displacement or position in a successful attempt to reconcile a stationary target's retinal instability (caused by motion of the eyes) with its corresponding spatial invariance. This is in stark contrast to perceptual localization, which has been shown to rely on a sluggish representation of eye displacement, achieving only partial compensation for the retinal displacement caused by saccadic eye movements. Recent studies, however, have begun to cast doubt on the belief that the oculomotor system posseses a signal of eye displacement superior to that of the perceptual system. To verify this, five humans and one monkey (Macaca nemesthna) served as subjects in this study of oculomotor localization abilities. Subjects were instructed to make eye movements, as accurately as possible, to the locations of three successive visual stimuli. Presentation of the third stimulus (2-ms duration) was timed so that it fell before, during, or after the subject's saccade from the first stimulus to the second. Localization errors in each subject (human and nonhuman) were consistent with the hypothesis that the oculomotor system has access to only a damped representation of eye displacement —a representation similar to that found in perceptual localization studies.

(Received September 10 1991)

(Accepted January 14 1992)


Present address of Paul Dassonville: Brain Sciences Center (IIB), VA Medical Center and University of Minnesota, 1 veterans Drive, Minneapolis, MN 55417.