Humans use Optokinetic Eye Movements to Track Waypoints for Steering

Sci Rep. 2020 Mar 6;10(1):4175. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-60531-3.


It is well-established how visual stimuli and self-motion in laboratory conditions reliably elicit retinal-image-stabilizing compensatory eye movements (CEM). Their organization and roles in natural-task gaze strategies is much less understood: are CEM applied in active sampling of visual information in human locomotion in the wild? If so, how? And what are the implications for guidance? Here, we directly compare gaze behavior in the real world (driving a car) and a fixed base simulation steering task. A strong and quantifiable correspondence between self-rotation and CEM counter-rotation is found across a range of speeds. This gaze behavior is "optokinetic", i.e. optic flow is a sufficient stimulus to spontaneously elicit it in naïve subjects and vestibular stimulation or stereopsis are not critical. Theoretically, the observed nystagmus behavior is consistent with tracking waypoints on the future path, and predicted by waypoint models of locomotor control - but inconsistent with travel point models, such as the popular tangent point model.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Eye Movements / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Locomotion / physiology
  • Regression Analysis