Shared Attention for Smooth Pursuit and Saccades

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Identification of brief luminance decrements on parafoveal stimuli presented during smooth pursuit improves when a spot pursuit target is surrounded by a larger random dot cinematogram (RDC) that moves with it (Heinen, Jin, & Watamaniuk, 2011). This was hypothesized to occur because the RDC provided an alternative, less attention-demanding pursuit drive, and therefore released attentional resources for visual perception tasks that are shared with those used to pursue the spot. Here, we used the RDC as a tool to probe whether spot pursuit also shares attentional resources with the saccadic system. To this end, we set out to determine if the RDC could release attention from pursuit of the spot to perform a saccade task. Observers made a saccade to one of four parafoveal targets that moved with the spot pursuit stimulus. The targets either moved alone or were surrounded by an RDC (100% coherence). Saccade latency decreased with the RDC, suggesting that the RDC released attention needed to pursue the spot, which was then used for the saccade task. Additional evidence that attention was released by the RDC was obtained in an experiment in which attention was anchored to the fovea by requiring observers to detect a brief color change applied 130 ms before the saccade target appeared. This manipulation eliminated the RDC advantage. The results imply that attentional resources used by the pursuit and saccadic eye movement control systems are shared.



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