Microsaccades uncover the orientation of covert attention

Vision Res. 2003 Apr;43(9):1035-45. doi: 10.1016/s0042-6989(03)00084-1.


Fixational eye movements are subdivided into tremor, drift, and microsaccades. All three types of miniature eye movements generate small random displacements of the retinal image when viewing a stationary scene. Here we investigate the modulation of microsaccades by shifts of covert attention in a classical spatial cueing paradigm. First, we replicate the suppression of microsaccades with a minimum rate about 150 ms after cue onset. Second, as a new finding we observe microsaccadic enhancement with a maximum rate about 350 ms after presentation of the cue. Third, we find a modulation of the orientation towards the cue direction. These multiple influences of visual attention on microsaccades accentuate their role for visual information processing. Furthermore, our results suggest that microsaccades can be used to map the orientation of visual attention in psychophysical experiments.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attention / physiology*
  • Cues*
  • Humans
  • Psychophysics
  • Saccades / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*