Oculomotor inhibition reflects temporal expectations

Roy Amit, Dekel Abeles, Marisa Carrasco, Shlomit Yuval-Greenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The accurate extraction of signals out of noisy environments is a major challenge of the perceptual system. Forming temporal expectations and continuously matching them with perceptual input can facilitate this process. In humans, temporal expectations are typically assessed using behavioral measures, which provide only retrospective but no real-time estimates during target anticipation, or by using electrophysiological measures, which require extensive preprocessing and are difficult to interpret. Here we show a new correlate of temporal expectations based on oculomotor behavior. Observers performed an orientation-discrimination task on a central grating target, while their gaze position and EEG were monitored. In each trial, a cue preceded the target by a varying interval (“foreperiod”). In separate blocks, the cue was either predictive or non-predictive regarding the timing of the target. Results showed that saccades and blinks were inhibited more prior to an anticipated regular target than a less-anticipated irregular one. This consistent oculomotor inhibition effect enabled a trial-by-trial classification according to interval-regularity. Additionally, in the regular condition the slope of saccade-rate and drift were shallower for longer than shorter foreperiods, indicating their adjustment according to temporal expectations. Comparing the sensitivity of this oculomotor marker with those of other common predictability markers (e.g. alpha-suppression) showed that it is a sensitive marker for cue-related anticipation. In contrast, temporal changes in conditional probabilities (hazard-rate) modulated alpha-suppression more than cue-related anticipation. We conclude that pre-target oculomotor inhibition is a correlate of temporal predictions induced by cue-target associations, whereas alpha-suppression is more sensitive to conditional probabilities across time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)279-292
Number of pages14
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019


  • Alpha-oscillations
  • Blinks
  • EEG
  • Eye-movements
  • Saccades
  • Temporal expectations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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