The influence of motor training on human express saccade production

J Neurophysiol. 2009 Dec;102(6):3101-10. doi: 10.1152/jn.90710.2008. Epub 2009 Sep 23.


Express saccadic eye movements are saccades of extremely short latency. In monkey, express saccades have been shown to occur much more frequently when the monkey has been trained to make saccades in a particular direction to targets that appear in predictable locations. Such results suggest that express saccades occur in large number only under highly specific conditions, leading to the view that vector-specific training and motor preparatory processes are required to make an express saccade of a particular magnitude and direction. To evaluate this hypothesis in humans, we trained subjects to make saccades quickly to particular locations and then examined whether the frequency of express saccades depended on training and the number of possible target locations. Training significantly decreased saccade latency and increased express saccade production to both trained and untrained locations. Increasing the number of possible target locations (two vs. eight possible targets) led to only a modest increase of saccade latency. For most subjects, the probability of express saccade occurrence was much higher than that expected if vector-specific movement preparation were necessary for their production. These results suggest that vector-specific motor preparation and vector-specific saccade training are not necessary for express saccade production in humans and that increases in express saccade production are due in part to a facilitation in fixation disengagement or else a general enhancement in the ability of the saccadic system to respond to suddenly appearing visual stimuli.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Attention / physiology
  • Humans
  • Orientation / physiology
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Reaction Time / physiology*
  • Saccades / physiology*
  • Time Factors
  • Transfer, Psychology / physiology*
  • Young Adult