Orthogonal steps relieve saccadic suppression

J Vis. 2014 Feb 17;14(2):13. doi: 10.1167/14.2.13.


Although the retinal position of objects changes with each saccadic eye movement, we perceive the visual world to be stable. How this visual stability or constancy arises is debated. Cancellation accounts propose that the retinal consequences of eye movements are compensated for by an equal-but-opposite eye movement signal. Assumption accounts propose that saccade-induced retinal displacements are ignored because we have a prior belief in a stable world. Saccadic suppression of displacement-the fact that small displacements of the visual targets during saccades go unnoticed-argues in favor of assumption accounts. Extinguishing the target before the displacement unmasks it, arguing in favor of cancellation accounts. We show that an irrelevant displacement of the target orthogonal to saccade direction unmasks displacements parallel to saccade direction, and therefore relieves saccadic suppression of displacement. This result suggests that visual stability arises from the interplay between cancellation and assumption mechanisms: When the post-saccadic target position falls within an elliptic region roughly equivalent to habitual saccadic variability, displacements are not seen and stability is assumed. When the displacements fall outside this region, as with our orthogonal steps, displacements are seen and positions are remapped.

Keywords: eye movements; saccadic suppression; visual stability.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Retina / physiology*
  • Saccades / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*