Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
During active scene perception, our eyes move from one location to another via saccadic eye movements, with the eyes fixating objects and scene elements for varying amounts of time. Much of the variability in fixation duration is accounted for by attentional, perceptual, and cognitive processes associated with scene analysis and comprehension. For this reason, current theories of active scene viewing attempt to account for the influence of attention and cognition on fixation duration. Yet almost nothing is known about the neurocognitive systems associated with variation in fixation duration during scene viewing. We addressed this topic using fixation-related fMRI, which involves coregistering high-resolution eye tracking and magnetic resonance scanning to conduct event-related fMRI analysis based on characteristics of eye movements. We observed that activation in visual and prefrontal executive control areas was positively correlated with fixation duration, whereas activation in ventral areas associated with scene encoding and medial superior frontal and paracentral regions associated with changing action plans was negatively correlated with fixation duration. The results suggest that fixation duration in scene viewing is controlled by cognitive processes associated with real-time scene analysis interacting with motor planning, consistent with current computational models of active vision for scene perception.