Perceptual Saccadic Suppression Starts in the Retina

Nat Commun. 2020 Apr 24;11(1):1977. doi: 10.1038/s41467-020-15890-w.

Abstract

Visual sensitivity, probed through perceptual detectability of very brief visual stimuli, is strongly impaired around the time of rapid eye movements. This robust perceptual phenomenon, called saccadic suppression, is frequently attributed to active suppressive signals that are directly derived from eye movement commands. Here we show instead that visual-only mechanisms, activated by saccade-induced image shifts, can account for all perceptual properties of saccadic suppression that we have investigated. Such mechanisms start at, but are not necessarily exclusive to, the very first stage of visual processing in the brain, the retina. Critically, neural suppression originating in the retina outlasts perceptual suppression around the time of saccades, suggesting that extra-retinal movement-related signals, rather than causing suppression, may instead act to shorten it. Our results demonstrate a far-reaching contribution of visual processing mechanisms to perceptual saccadic suppression, starting in the retina, without the need to invoke explicit motor-based suppression commands.