Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Eye movements were recorded from three subjects as they initiated tracking of a small circle (“target”) moving leftward or rightward, above or below the horizontal meridian, either alone or in the presence of a small square (“distractor”) moving leftward or rightward on the other side of the horizontal meridian. At the start of each trial, subjects were provided with either a “form” cue (always centrally positioned and having the circular shape and color of the upcoming moving target) or a “location” cue (a small white square positioned where the upcoming target would appear). The latency of pursuit increased in the presence of an oppositely moving distractor when subjects were provided the form cues but not when they were provided the location cues. The latency of saccades showed similar, but smaller, increases when subjects were given the form cues. On many trials with the form cues, pursuit started in the direction of the distractor and then reversed to follow the target. On these trials, the initial saccade often, but not always, also followed the distractor. These results indicate that the mechanisms of target selection for pursuit and saccades are tightly coordinated but not strictly yoked. The shared effects of the distractor on the latencies of pursuit and saccades probably reflect the common role of visual attention in filtering the inputs that guide these two types of eye movements. The differences in the details of the effects on pursuit and saccades suggest that the neural mechanisms that trigger these two movements can be independently regulated.