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02-01-2019 | Original Article | Uitgave 5/2020

Psychological Research 5/2020

Microsaccadic rate and pupil size dynamics in pro-/anti-saccade preparation: the impact of intermixed vs. blocked trial administration

Psychological Research > Uitgave 5/2020
Mario Dalmaso, Luigi Castelli, Giovanni Galfano
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Prolonged fixation can lead to the generation of tiny and fast eye movements called microsaccades, whose dynamics can be associated with higher cognitive mechanisms. Saccade preparation is also reflected in microsaccadic activity, but the few studies on this topic provided mixed results. For instance, fewer microsaccades have been observed when participants were asked to prepare for an anti-saccade (i.e., a saccade in the opposite direction to the target) as compared to a pro-saccade (i.e., a saccade executed towards a target), but null results have also been reported. In the attempt to shed new light on this topic, two experiments were carried out in which the context of presentation of pro- and anti-saccade trials was manipulated. Pupil size was also recorded, as a further index of cognitive load. In Experiment 1, participants were asked to prepare and perform pro- and anti-saccades in response to a peripheral target, according to a central instruction cue provided at the beginning of each trial (intermixed condition). In Experiment 2, the same task was employed, but pro- and anti-saccade trials were delivered in two distinct blocks (blocked condition). In both experiments, greater saccadic latencies and lower accuracy emerged for anti- than for pro-saccades. However, in the intermixed condition, a lower microsaccadic rate and a greater pupil size emerged when participants prepared for anti- rather than pro-saccades, whereas these differences disappeared in the blocked condition. These results suggest that contextual factors may play a key role in shaping oculomotor dynamics linked to saccade preparation.

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