Distractor modulation of saccade trajectories: spatial separation and symmetry effects

Exp Brain Res. 2004 Apr;155(3):320-33. doi: 10.1007/s00221-003-1729-5. Epub 2004 Jan 15.


The trajectories of saccadic eye movements can be modulated by the presence of a competing visual distractor. In the present study the trajectories of vertical saccades curved away from a single visual distractor presented in one visual field, but tended to be straight when two distractors were presented at mirror symmetric locations in both visual fields. The spatial nature of the mirror distractor effect was examined by presenting a second distractor at mirror and non-mirror locations. Saccade trajectories also tended to be straight with both mirror and non-mirror symmetrical distractors. The relationship between the distractor location and saccade curvature was examined in a third experiment by manipulating the distractor-to-target spatial separation. Although there was a tendency for greater curvature when the distractor was presented in the same hemifield as the target there was no clear relationship between curvature and distractor location. The results show that the distractor modulation of saccade trajectory is not highly spatially specific and that it can be balanced by a second bilateral distractor in the opposite visual field. The results are interpreted in terms of a model in which the initial saccade direction and curvature back towards the saccade goal are controlled by separate processes. Initial saccade direction is modulated by the inhibition of distractor locations within a 'motor map' specifying saccade direction. Curvature back towards the saccade goal may be attributed to a feedback system, with a separate representation of the visual target location, that enables an on-line correction of the saccade during mid-flight.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cues
  • Female
  • Fixation, Ocular / physiology
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Saccades / physiology*
  • Space Perception / physiology*
  • Visual Fields / physiology