Suppression and reversal of motion perception around the time of the saccade

Front Syst Neurosci. 2015 Oct 31;9:143. doi: 10.3389/fnsys.2015.00143. eCollection 2015.


We make fast, "saccadic" eye movements to capture finely resolved foveal snapshots of the world but these saccades cause motion artefacts. The artefacts go unnoticed, perhaps because the brain suppresses them through subcortical oculomotor signals feeding back into visual cortex. Opposing views, however, claim that passive mechanisms suffice: saccadic shearing forces might render the retina insensitive to the artefacts or post-saccadic snapshots might mask them before they enter consciousness. Crucially, only active suppression could explain perceptual changes that precede saccades but existing evidence for presaccadic misperception are ill-suited for addressing this issue: Previous studies have found misperceptions of space for objects briefly flashed before saccades, but perhaps only because observers confused the timing of flashes and saccades before they could be tested ("postdiction"), and presaccadic motion perception might have appeared to decline because motion stimuli persisted past eye movement onset. Here we addressed these concerns using briefly flashed two-frame animations (50 ms) to probe people's motion sensitivity during and around saccades. We found that sensitivity declined before saccade onset, even when the probe appeared entirely outside the saccade, and this sensitivity decline was present for motion in every direction relative to saccade, ruling out problems with postdiction. Intriguingly, brief periods during the saccade produced negative sensitivity as if motion was reversed, arguably due to postsaccadic enhancement. These data suggest that motion perception is minimized during saccades through active suppression, complementing neurophysiological findings of colliculo-pulvinar projections that suppress the cortical middle temporal area around the time of the saccade.

Keywords: V5; motion; perisaccadic suppression; saccades.