Saccade Preparation Reshapes Sensory Tuning

Hsin Hung Li, Antoine Barbot, Marisa Carrasco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Human observers make large rapid eye movements—saccades—to bring behaviorally relevant information into the fovea, where spatial resolution is high. In some visual tasks [1–4], performance at the location of a saccade target improves before the eyes move. Although these findings provide evidence that extra-retinal signals evoked by saccades can enhance visual perception, it remains unknown whether and how presaccadic modulations change the processing of feature information and thus modulate visual representations. To answer this question, one must go beyond the use of methods that only probe performance accuracy (d′) in different tasks. Here, using a psychophysical reverse correlation approach [5–8], we investigated how saccade preparation influences the processing of orientation and spatial frequency—two building blocks of early vision. We found that saccade preparation selectively enhanced the gain of high spatial frequency information and narrowed orientation tuning at the upcoming saccade landing position. These modulations were time locked to saccade onset, peaking right before the eyes moved (−50–0 ms). Moreover, merely deploying covert attention within the same temporal interval without preparing a saccade did not alter performance. The observed presaccadic tuning changes may correspond to the presaccadic enhancement [9–11] and receptive field shifts reported in neurophysiological studies [12–14]. Saccade preparation may support transaccadic integration by reshaping the representation of the saccade target to be more fovea-like just before the eyes move. The presaccadic modulations on spatial frequency and orientation processing illustrate a strong perception-action coupling by revealing that the visual system dynamically reshapes feature selectivity contingent upon eye movements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1564-1570
Number of pages7
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number12
StatePublished - 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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