Velocity scaling of cue-induced smooth pursuit acceleration obeys constraints of natural motion

Exp Brain Res. 2007 Sep;182(3):343-56. doi: 10.1007/s00221-007-0988-y. Epub 2007 Jun 12.


Information about the future trajectory of a visual target is contained not only in the history of target motion but also in static visual cues, e.g., the street provides information about the car's future trajectory. For most natural moving targets, this information imposes strong constraints on the relation between velocity and acceleration which can be exploited by predictive smooth pursuit mechanisms. We questioned how cue-induced predictive changes in pursuit direction depend on target speed and how cue- and target-induced pursuit interact. Subjects pursued a target entering a +/-90 degrees curve and moving on either a homogeneous background or on a low contrast static band indicating the future trajectory. The cue induced a predictive change of pursuit direction, which occurred before curve onset of the target. The predictive velocity component orthogonal to the initial pursuit direction started later and became faster with increasing target velocity. The predictive eye acceleration increased quadratically with target velocity and was independent of the initial target direction. After curve onset, cue- and target-induced pursuit velocity components were not linearly superimposed. The quadratic increase of eye acceleration with target velocity is consistent with the natural velocity scaling implied by the two-thirds power law, which is a characteristic of biological controlled movements. Comparison with linear pursuit models reveals that the ratio between eye acceleration and actual or expected retinal slip cannot be considered a constant gain factor. To obey a natural velocity scaling, this acceleration gain must linearly increase with target or pursuit velocity. We suggest that gain control mechanisms, which affect target-induced changes of pursuit velocity, act similarly on predictive changes of pursuit induced by static visual cues.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Cues*
  • Humans
  • Motion Perception / physiology*
  • Orientation
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Psychophysics
  • Pursuit, Smooth / physiology*
  • Reaction Time
  • Visual Fields
  • Volition