Reinforcement effects in anticipatory smooth eye movements

J Vis. 2018 Oct 1;18(11):14. doi: 10.1167/18.11.14.


When predictive information about target motion is available, anticipatory smooth pursuit eye movements (aSPEM) are consistently generated before target appearance, thereby reducing the typical sensorimotor delay between target motion onset and foveation. By manipulating the probability for target motion direction, we were able to bias the direction and mean velocity of aSPEM. This suggests that motion-direction expectancy has a strong effect on the initiation of anticipatory movements. To further understand the nature of anticipatory smooth eye movements, we investigated different effects of reinforcement on aSPEM. In a first experiment, the reinforcement was contingent to a particular anticipatory behavior. A monetary reward was associated to a criterion-matching anticipatory velocity as estimated online during the gap before target motion onset. Our results showed a small but significant effect of behavior-contingent monetary reward on aSPEM. In a second experiment, the proportion of rewarded trials was manipulated across motion directions (right vs. left) independently from participants' behavior. Our results indicate that a bias in expected reward does not systematically affect anticipatory eye movements. Overall, these findings strengthen the notion that anticipatory eye movements can be considered as an operant behavior (similar to visually guided ones), whereas the expectancy for a noncontingent reward cannot efficiently bias them.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motion Perception / physiology*
  • Pursuit, Smooth / physiology*
  • Reaction Time
  • Reinforcement, Psychology*
  • Reward
  • Young Adult