Transient and sustained effects of stimulus properties on the generation of microsaccades

Roy Amit, Dekel Abeles, Shlomit Yuval-Greenberg*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Saccades shift the gaze rapidly every few hundred milliseconds from one fixated location to the next, producing a flow of visual input into the visual system even in the absence of changes in the environment. During fixation, small saccades called microsaccades are produced 1-3 times per second, generating a flow of visual input. The characteristics of this visual flow are determined by the timings of the saccades and by the characteristics of the visual stimuli on which they are performed. Previous models of microsaccade generation have accounted for the effects of external stimulation on the production of microsaccades, but they have not considered the effects of the prolonged background stimulus on which microsaccades are performed. The effects of this stimulus on the process of microsaccade generation could be sustained, following its prolonged presentation, or transient, through the visual transients produced by the microsaccades themselves. In four experiments, we varied the properties of the constant displays and examined the resulting modulation of microsaccade properties: their sizes, their timings, and the correlations between properties of consecutive microsaccades. Findings show that displays of higher spatial frequency and contrast produce smaller microsaccades and longer minimal intervals between consecutive microsaccades; and smaller microsaccades are followed by smaller and delayed microsaccades. We explain these findings in light of previous models and suggest a conceptual model by which both sustained and transient effects of the stimulus have central roles in determining the generation of microsaccades.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6
Pages (from-to)1-23
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Vision
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2019


  • Contrast
  • Eye movements
  • Eye tracking
  • Fixation
  • Free view
  • Microsaccades
  • Saccades
  • Spatial frequency


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