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The effects of fixation target size and luminance on microsaccades and square-wave jerks

Author(s): Michael B. McCamy | Ali Najafian Jazi | Jorge Otero-Millan | Stephen L. Macknik | Susana Martinez-Conde

Journal: PeerJ
ISSN 2167-8359

Volume: 1;
Start page: e9;
Date: 2013;
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Keywords: Saccadic intrusions | Fixation control | Fixation error

A large amount of classic and contemporary vision studies require subjects to fixate a target. Target fixation serves as a normalizing factor across studies, promoting the field’s ability to compare and contrast experiments. Yet, fixation target parameters, including luminance, contrast, size, shape and color, vary across studies, potentially affecting the interpretation of results. Previous research on the effects of fixation target size and luminance on the control of fixation position rendered conflicting results, and no study has examined the effects of fixation target characteristics on square-wave jerks, the most common type of saccadic intrusion. Here we set out to determine the effects of fixation target size and luminance on the characteristics of microsaccades and square-wave jerks, over a large range of stimulus parameters. Human subjects fixated a circular target with varying luminance and size while we recorded their eye movements with an infrared video tracker (EyeLink 1000, SR Research). We detected microsaccades and SWJs automatically with objective algorithms developed previously. Microsaccade rates decreased linearly and microsaccade magnitudes increased linearly with target size. The percent of microsaccades forming part of SWJs decreased, and the time from the end of the initial SWJ saccade to the beginning of the second SWJ saccade (SWJ inter-saccadic interval; ISI) increased with target size. The microsaccadic preference for horizontal direction also decreased moderately with target size . Target luminance did not affect significantly microsaccades or SWJs, however. In the absence of a fixation target, microsaccades became scarcer and larger, while SWJ prevalence decreased and SWJ ISIs increased. Thus, the choice of fixation target can affect experimental outcomes, especially in human factors and in visual and oculomotor studies. These results have implications for previous and future research conducted under fixation conditions, and should encourage forthcoming studies to report the size of fixation targets to aid the interpretation and replication of their results.

Tango Jona
Tangokurs Rapperswil-Jona

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