Post-saccadic face processing is modulated by pre-saccadic preview: Evidence from fixation-related potentials

Antimo Buonocore, Olaf Dimigen, David Melcher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Humans actively sample their environment with saccadic eye movements to bring relevant information into high-acuity foveal vision. Despite being lower in resolution, peripheral information is also available before each saccade. How the pre-saccadic extrafoveal preview of a visual object influences its post-saccadic processing is still an unanswered question. The current study investigated this question by simultaneously recording behavior and fixation-related brain potentials while human subjects made saccades to face stimuli. We manipulated the relationship between pre-saccadic “previews” and post-saccadic images to explicitly isolate the influences of the former. Subjects performed a gender discrimination task on a newly foveated face under three preview conditions: scrambled face, incongruent face (different identity from the foveated face), and congruent face (same identity). As expected, reaction times were faster after a congruent-face preview compared with a scrambled-face preview. Importantly, intact face previews (either incongruent or congruent) resulted in a massive reduction of post-saccadic neural responses. Specifically, we analyzed the classic face-selective N170 component at occipitotemporal electroencephalogram electrodes, which was still present in our experiments with active looking. However, the post-saccadic N170 was strongly attenuated following intact-face previews compared with the scrambled condition. This large and long-lasting decrease in evoked activity is consistent with a trans-saccadic mechanism of prediction that influences category-specific neural processing at the start of a new fixation. These findings constrain theories of visual stability and show that the extrafoveal preview methodology can be a useful tool to investigate its underlying mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2305-2313
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number10
StatePublished - Mar 11 2020


  • Active prediction
  • Eye movements
  • Fixation related potentials
  • N170
  • Visual stability
  • Cues
  • Fixation, Ocular/physiology
  • Humans
  • Color
  • Occipital Lobe/physiology
  • Male
  • Reaction Time
  • Electroencephalography
  • Temporal Lobe/physiology
  • Young Adult
  • Gender Identity
  • Evoked Potentials, Visual/physiology
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Saccades/physiology
  • Psychomotor Performance/physiology
  • Facial Recognition/physiology
  • Event-Related Potentials, P300/physiology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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