Cognitive influences on fixational eye movements

Yen Chu Lin, Janis Intoy, Ashley M. Clark, Michele Rucci, Jonathan D. Victor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


We perceive the world based on visual information acquired via oculomotor control,1 an activity intertwined with ongoing cognitive processes.2,3,4 Cognitive influences have been primarily studied in the context of macroscopic movements, like saccades and smooth pursuits. However, our eyes are never still, even during periods of fixation. One of the fixational eye movements, ocular drifts, shifts the stimulus over hundreds of receptors on the retina, a motion that has been argued to enhance the processing of spatial detail by translating spatial into temporal information.5 Despite their apparent randomness, ocular drifts are under neural control.6,7,8 However little is known about the control of drift beyond the brainstem circuitry of the vestibulo-ocular reflex.9,10 Here, we investigated the cognitive control of ocular drifts with a letter discrimination task. The experiment was designed to reveal open-loop effects, i.e., cognitive oculomotor control driven by specific prior knowledge of the task, independent of incoming sensory information. Open-loop influences were isolated by randomly presenting pure noise fields (no letters) while subjects engaged in discriminating specific letter pairs. Our results show open-loop control of drift direction in human observers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1606-1612.e4
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number8
StatePublished - 24 Apr 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • active vision
  • foveal vision
  • ocular drifts
  • oculomotor control


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