Rapid spatial oculomotor updating across saccades is malleable

Jonathan van Leeuwen*, Artem V. Belopolsky

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The oculomotor system uses a sophisticated updating mechanism to adjust for large retinal displacements which occur with every saccade. Previous studies have shown that updating operates rapidly and starts before saccade is initiated. Here we used saccade adaptation to alter life-long expectations about how a saccade changes the location of an object on the retina. Participants made a sequence of one horizontal and one vertical saccade and ignored an irrelevant distractor. The time-course of oculomotor updating was estimated using saccade curvature of the vertical saccade, relative to the distractor. During the first saccade both saccade targets were shifted on 80% of trials, which induced saccade adaptation (Experiment 1). Critically, since the distractor was left stationary, successful saccade adaptation (e.g., saccade becoming shorter) meant that after the first saccade the distractor appeared in a different hemifield than without adaptation. After adaptation, second saccades curved away only from the newly learned distractor location starting at 80 ms after the first saccade. When on the minority of trials (20%) the targets were not shifted, saccades again first curved away from the newly learned (now empty) location, but then quickly switched to curving away from the life-long learned, visible location. When on some trials the distractor was removed during the first saccade, saccades curved away only from the newly learned (but empty) location (Experiment 2). The results show that updating of locations across saccades is not only fast, but is highly malleable, relying on recently learned sensorimotor contingencies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)60-69
Number of pages10
JournalVision Research
Early online date25 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021


  • Oculomotor competition
  • Remapping
  • Saccade adaptation
  • Saccade curvature
  • Visual stability


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