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The time course of visual information accrual guiding eye movement decisions

The time course of visual information accrual guiding eye movement decisions

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 101(35): 13086-13090

Saccadic eye movements are the result of neural decisions about where to move the eyes. These decisions are based on visual information accumulated before the saccade; however, during an approximately 100-ms interval immediately before the initiation of an eye movement, new visual information cannot influence the decision. Does the brain simply ignore information presented during this brief interval or is the information used for the subsequent saccade? Our study examines how and when the brain integrates visual information through time to drive saccades during visual search. We introduce a new technique, saccade-contingent reverse correlation, that measures the time course of visual information accrual driving the first and second saccades. Observers searched for a contrast-defined target among distractors. Independent contrast noise was added to the target and distractors every 25 ms. Only noise presented in the time interval in which the brain accumulates information will influence the saccadic decisions. Therefore, we can retrieve the time course of saccadic information accrual by averaging the time course of the noise, aligned to saccade initiation, across all trials with saccades to distractors. Results show that before the first saccade, visual information is being accumulated simultaneously for the first and second saccades. Furthermore, information presented immediately before the first saccade is not used in making the first saccadic decision but instead is stored and used by the neural processes driving the second saccade.

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Accession: 012684696

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PMID: 15326284

DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0305329101

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