Saccades constitute a major source of artifacts and confounds in brain imaging studies. Whereas some artifacts can be removed by omitting segments of data, saccadic artifacts cannot be typically eliminated by this method because of their high occurrence rate even during fixation (1–3 per second). Some saccadic artifacts can be alleviated by offline-correction algorithms, but these methods leave nonnegligible residuals and cannot mitigate the saccade-related visual activity. Here, we propose a novel yet simple approach for diminishing saccadic artifacts and confounds through experimental design. We suggest that specific tasks can lead to substantially less saccade occurrences around the time of stimulus presentation, starting from slightly before its onset and lasting for a few hundred milliseconds. In three experiments, we compared the frequency and size of saccades in a variety of tasks. Results of Experiment 1 showed that a foveal change-detection task reduced the number and sizes of saccades, relative to a parafoveal orientation-discrimination task. Experiment 2 replicated this finding with a parafoveal object recognition task. Experiment 3 showed that both foveal and parafoveal continuous change detection tasks induced fewer and smaller saccades than a discrete orientation-discrimination task. We conclude that adding a foveal or a parafoveal continuous task reduces saccades' number and size. This would lead to better artifact correction and enable the omission of contaminated data segments. This study may be the first step toward developing saccade-free experimental designs.
- eye movements
- saccadic artifacts