Purpose: Extraocular muscle afferent signals contribute to oculomotor control and visual localization. Prompted by the close links between the oculomotor and attention systems, it was investigated whether these proprioceptive signals also modulated the allocation of attention in space.
Methods: A suction sclera contact lens was used to impose an eye rotation on the nonviewing, dominant eye. With their viewing, nondominant eye, participants (n = 4) fixated centrally and detected targets presented at 5° in the left or right visual hemifield. The position of the viewing eye was monitored throughout the experiment. As a control, visual localization was tested using finger pointing without visual feedback of the hand, whereas the nonviewing eye remained deviated.
Results: The sustained passive rotation of the occluded, dominant eye, while the other eye maintained central fixation, resulted in a lateralized change in the detectability of visual targets. In all participants, the advantage in speed and accuracy for detecting right versus left hemifield targets that occurred during a sustained rightward eye rotation of the dominant eye was reduced or reversed by a leftward eye rotation. The control experiment confirmed that the eye deviation procedure caused pointing errors consistent with an approximately 2° shift in perceived eye position, in the direction of rotation of the nonviewing eye.
Conclusions: With the caveat of the small number of participants, these results suggest that extraocular muscle afferent signals modulate the deployment of attention in visual space.