Masking the saccadic smear

J Vis. 2016 Aug 1;16(10):1. doi: 10.1167/16.10.1.


Static visual stimuli are smeared across the retina during saccades, but in normal conditions this smear is not perceived. Instead, we perceive the visual scene as static and sharp. However, retinal smear is perceived if stimuli are shown only intrasaccadically, but not if the stimulus is additionally shown before a saccade begins, or after the saccade ends (Campbell & Wurtz, 1978). This inhibition has been compared to forward and backward metacontrast masking, but with spatial relations between stimulus and mask that are different from ordinary metacontrast during fixation. Previous studies of smear masking have used subjective measures of smear perception. Here we develop a new, objective technique for measuring smear masking, based on the spatial localization of a gap in the smear created by very quickly blanking the stimulus at various points during the saccade. We apply this technique to show that smear masking survives dichoptic presentation (suggesting that it is therefore cortical in origin), as well as separations of as much as 6° between smear and mask.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Perceptual Masking / physiology*
  • Retina / physiology*
  • Saccades / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*