Prestimulus inhibition of eye movements reflects temporal expectation rather than time estimation

Noam Tal-Perry, Shlomit Yuval-Greenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Eye movements are inhibited prior to the occurrence of temporally predictable events. This ‘oculomotor inhibition effect’ has been demonstrated with various tasks and modalities. Specifically, it was shown that when intervals between cue and target are fixed, saccade rate prior to the target is lower than when they are varied. However, it is still an open question whether this effect is linked to temporal expectation to the predictable target, or to the duration estimation of the interval preceding it. Here, we examined this question in 20 participants while they performed an implicit temporal expectation and an explicit time estimation task. In each trial, following cue onset, two consecutive grating patches were presented, each preceded by an interval. Temporal expectation was manipulated by setting the first interval duration to be either fixed or varied within each block. Participants were requested to compare either the durations of the two intervals (time estimation), or the tilts of the two grating patches (temporal expectation). Saccade rate, measured prior to the first grating, was lower in the fixed relative to the varied condition of both tasks. This suggests that the inhibition effect is elicited by target predictability and indicates that it is linked to temporal expectation, rather than to time estimation processes. Additionally, this finding suggests that the oculomotor inhibition is independent of motor readiness, as it was elicited even when no response was required. We conclude that the prestimulus oculomotor inhibition effect can be used as a marker of temporal expectation, and discuss its potential underlying mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2473-2485
Number of pages13
JournalAttention, Perception, and Psychophysics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Aug 2021


  • Microsaccades
  • Saccades
  • Temporal attention
  • Temporal orientation
  • Time perception


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