Multisensory interactions in saccade target selection: curved saccade trajectories

Exp Brain Res. 2002 Jan;142(1):116-30. doi: 10.1007/s00221-001-0919-2. Epub 2001 Nov 9.


In a series of experiments, we examined the change in saccade trajectories observed when distractors are presented at non-target locations. The primary aim of the experiments was to examine multisensory interaction effects between the visual, auditory and somatosensory modalities in saccade generation. In each experiment observers made saccades to visual targets above and below fixation in the presence of visual, auditory or tactile stimuli to the left or right of fixation. In experiment 1 distractor location indicated which of two stimuli was the target for the saccade. Saccade trajectories showed strong leftward curvature following right-side distractors and showed rightward curvature following left-side distractors. The largest effects on trajectories were observed for visual distractors, but significant curvature was observed with auditory and somatosensory distractors. In experiment 2 saccades were made following the onset of a visual target (reflexive) or following presentation of an arrow at fixation (voluntary), and task-irrelevant crossmodal distractors were presented simultaneously with target onset. Both voluntary and reflexive saccades were found to curve away from task-irrelevant visual distractors, but auditory and somatosensory distractors did not modulate saccade trajectories. In experiment 3 task-irrelevant distractors preceded the onset of the target by 100 ms. Reflexive saccades were found to curve away from visual, auditory and somatosensory distractors, but voluntary saccades curved away from visual distractors only. The modulation of saccade trajectories by distractors from different modalities is interpreted in terms of inhibitory processes operating in neural structures involved in saccade generation. Our findings suggest that visual, auditory and somatosensory distractors can all modulate saccade trajectories. Such effects could be related to the inhibition of populations of neurons, in a common motor map, for the selection of a saccade target.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attention / physiology*
  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Brain / physiology
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Humans
  • Neural Inhibition / physiology*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Orientation / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Reflex / physiology
  • Saccades / physiology*
  • Space Perception / physiology*
  • Touch / physiology*