Sustained smooth pursuit eye movements with eye-induced reverse-phi motion

J Vis. 2017 Jan 1;17(1):5. doi: 10.1167/17.1.5.


The gain and speed of smooth pursuit eye movements quickly drop whenever a moving tracked target disappears behind an occluder. The present study tests to what extent pursuit maintenance after target disappearance depends on the occluder's characteristics. In all experiments, a target moving for 2500 ms, (or 1250 ms) at 13.3°/s (or 26.6°/s), disappears behind an occluder for 700 ms (or 350 ms). Participants are asked to maintain their pursuit eye movements as long as possible after target disappearance. Experiment 1 compares smooth pursuit with four types of occluders and shows that a texture of flickering disks allows maintaining pursuit for long durations. Experiment 2 investigates the capability to maintain pursuit with occluders of varying flickering frequencies (3, 5, 10, 20, and 30 Hz). It is found that after target disappearance, smooth pursuit is maintained for longer durations with flicker at 10 and 20 Hz, relative to other flickering frequencies (3, 5, and 30 Hz). Experiment 3 tests whether disk size and disk density of a flickering occluding texture influence smooth pursuit maintenance. Finally, Experiment 4 tests the influence of the contrast distribution of the flickering disks on pursuit maintenance. Altogether, the results show that individuals can maintain smooth pursuit for long durations after target disappearance behind an occluding texture of disks flickering at temporal frequency above 5 Hz with balanced contrast. It is suggested that eye-induced reverse-phi motion responses in MT/MST neurons provide a positive visual feedback to the pursuit system, allowing generating smooth pursuit in the absence of explicit stimulus motion.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motion Perception / physiology*
  • Motion*
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Pursuit, Smooth / physiology*
  • Visual Pathways / physiology*
  • Young Adult