Presaccadic EEG activity predicts visual saliency in free-viewing contour integration

Psychophysiology. 2018 Dec;55(12):e13267. doi: 10.1111/psyp.13267. Epub 2018 Aug 2.


While viewing a scene, the eyes are attracted to salient stimuli. We set out to identify the brain signals controlling this process. In a contour integration task, in which participants searched for a collinear contour in a field of randomly oriented Gabor elements, a previously established model was applied to calculate a visual saliency value for each fixation location. We studied brain activity related to the modeled saliency values, using coregistered eye tracking and EEG. To disentangle EEG signals reflecting salience in free viewing from overlapping EEG responses to sequential eye movements, we adopted generalized additive mixed modeling (GAMM) to single epochs of saccade-related EEG. We found that, when saliency at the next fixation location was high, amplitude of the presaccadic EEG activity was low. Since presaccadic activity reflects covert attention to the saccade target, our results indicate that larger attentional effort is needed for selecting less salient saccade targets than more salient ones. This effect was prominent in contour-present conditions (half of the trials), but ambiguous in the contour-absent condition. Presaccadic EEG activity may thus be indicative of bottom-up factors in saccade guidance. The results underscore the utility of GAMM for EEG-eye movement coregistration research.

Keywords: EEG; analysis/statistical methods; attention; eye tracking; visual processes; young adults.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Electroencephalography
  • Eye Movement Measurements
  • Female
  • Fixation, Ocular
  • Form Perception / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Saccades*
  • Young Adult