Microsaccades and temporal attention at different locations of the visual field

Helena Palmieri, Antonio Fernández, Marisa Carrasco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Temporal attention, the prioritization of information at specific points in time, improves performance in behavioral tasks but cannot ameliorate the perceptual asymmetries that exist across the visual field. That is, even after attentional deployment, performance is better along the horizontal than vertical meridian and worse at the upper than lower vertical meridian. Here we asked whether and how microsaccades—tiny fixational eye-movements—could mirror or alternatively attempt to compensate for these performance asymmetries by assessing temporal profiles and direction of microsaccades as a function of visual field location. Observers were asked to report the orientation of one of two targets presented at different time points, in one of three blocked locations (fovea, right horizontal meridian, upper vertical meridian).We found the following: (1) Microsaccade occurrence did not affect either task performance or the magnitude of the temporal attention effect. (2) Temporal attention modulated the microsaccade temporal profiles, and this modulation varied with polar angle location. At all locations, microsaccade rates were significantly more suppressed in anticipation of the target when temporally cued than in the neutral condition. Moreover, microsaccade rates were more suppressed during target presentation in the fovea than in the right horizontal meridian. (3) Across locations and attention conditions, there was a pronounced bias toward the upper hemifield. Overall, these results reveal that temporal attention benefits performance similarly around the visual field, microsaccade suppression is more pronounced for attention than expectation (neutral trials) across locations, and the directional bias toward the upper hemifield could reflect an attempt to compensate for typical poor performance at the upper vertical meridian.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number6
JournalJournal of vision
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2023


  • microsaccades
  • performance fields
  • temporal attention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems


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