Compression of visual space before saccades

Nature. 1997 Apr 10;386(6625):598-601. doi: 10.1038/386598a0.


Saccadic eye movements, in which the eye moves rapidly between two resting positions, shift the position of our retinal images. If our perception of the world is to remain stable, the visual directions associated with retinal sites, and others they report to, must be updated to compensate for changes in the point of gaze. It has long been suspected that this compensation is achieved by a uniform shift of coordinates driven by an extra-retinal position signal, although some consider this to be unnecessary. Considerable effort has been devoted to a search for such a signal and to measuring its time course and accuracy. Here, by using multiple as well as single targets under normal viewing conditions, we show that changes in apparent visual direction anticipate saccades and are not of the same size, or even in the same direction, for all parts of the visual field. We also show that there is a compression of visual space sufficient to reduce the spacing and even the apparent number of pattern elements. The results are in part consistent with electrophysiological findings of anticipatory shifts in the receptive fields of neurons in parietal cortex and superior colliculi.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Models, Neurological
  • Retina / physiology
  • Saccades / physiology*
  • Visual Fields
  • Visual Perception / physiology*