Natural image and receptive field statistics predict saccade sizes

Nat Neurosci. 2018 Nov;21(11):1591-1599. doi: 10.1038/s41593-018-0255-5. Epub 2018 Oct 22.


Humans and other primates sample the visual environment using saccadic eye movements that shift a high-resolution fovea toward regions of interest to create a clear perception of a scene across fixations. Many mammals, however, like mice, lack a fovea, which raises the question of why they make saccades. Here we describe and test the hypothesis that saccades are matched to natural scene statistics and to the receptive field sizes and adaptive properties of neural populations. Specifically, we determined the minimum amplitude of saccades in natural scenes necessary to provide uncorrelated inputs to model neural populations. This analysis predicts the distributions of observed saccade sizes during passive viewing for nonhuman primates, cats, and mice. Furthermore, disrupting the development of receptive field properties by monocular deprivation changed saccade sizes consistent with this hypothesis. Therefore, natural-scene statistics and the neural representation of natural images appear to be critical factors guiding saccadic eye movements.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cats
  • Mice
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Primates
  • Saccades / physiology*
  • Visual Fields / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*